ALBANY — Her high school running career, in her words, was “pretty mediocre.”
So when Hannah Reinhardt arrived at UAlbany and joined the school’s cross country program, she did so as a walk-on hoping to offer some depth for head coach Matt Jones’ team, and to make sure she was ready for the track and field season where she might fare better.
She’s done a little bit more than that.
“Not putting limits on myself was the best thing I could have ever done,” Reinhardt said.
Now a senior, Reinhardt is coming off her latest starring performance heading into Friday’s home R.K. Munsey UAlbany XC Invitational, which consists of an open 5K at noon, a women’s 5K at 1 p.m. and a men’s 8K at 1:45 p.m. Earlier this month, the Clarence native finished in third place out of 425 runners in the women’s 6K Gold race at the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University, where Reinhardt finished in 19:44.2 to become the first UAlbany women’s runner to finish a 6K in less than 20 minutes. The 21-year-old Reinhardt broke the UAlbany record of 20:20.1 set by Silva Del Fava, and the senior’s mark was a personal-best by 55 seconds.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Reinhardt said of that performance.
Her reason? She felt so strong after the race, she figured there was no way her time had been that low.
“You expect it to hurt,” Reinhardt, laughing, said.
For several years, though, Reinhardt has consistently surpassed expectations. Reinhardt became UAlbany’s first-ever America East Conference individual champion in cross country last year, and she’s bidding Friday to become the school’s first-ever female three-time winner at its home invitational.
“It’s a race against herself,” Jones said of Friday’s run for Reinhardt, who has won the last seven America East Performer of the Week awards she has been eligible to receive. “The surface isn’t a problem. The footing isn’t a problem. There’s some up-and-down hills, but she’s able to handle all of that. Our goal this weekend is just to work on each segment of the race, and race the whole distance.”
Reinhardt made her college debut at UAlbany’s home invitational as a freshman, a race that served as her breakout performance. She went into that race with modest expectations, but ended up finishing a surprising 10th.
“That’s where it all started for her,” Jones said.
Before that, though, Reinhardt spent the early part of her freshmen year getting herself healthy. When she got to UAlbany, it was discovered she was “severely anemic,” and ended up needing treatments of iron infusions before she could start competing.
Once she got racing, though, she started rolling.
“Every race was a PR,” Reinhardt said.
A rare setback for Reinhardt came last month at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. She finished 24th in that day’s 5K with a mark of 18:00.1, a place and a time that left her disappointed.
“It really does affect you a lot. After that race, especially, I was really bummed,” Reinhardt said. “It’s hard. We race infrequently, so when you’re out on the course, you want it to be your best execution and best effort every time. . . . Coming off a bad performance, it’s a little bit of a stab to your self-esteem.”
This season, though, Reinhardt has focused on keeping a positive mindset. After her tough race, she allowed herself the bus ride back to Albany and that night to be upset about it, but then put it behind her. A couple weeks later, she ran her program record-setting 6K.
“It’s all about execution,” Reinhardt said.
Later this fall, Reinhardt’s top goal is to qualify for the national championships from the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships. That’s a dream her coach thinks Reinhardt can turn into a reality.
“She’s more than capable of making it to the NCAA championships,” Jones said. “It’s tough to do, but it’s well within her grasp.”