ALBANY — For two years, Hannah Reinhardt focused on her goal.
The UAlbany senior was going to qualify for the NCAA cross country championships. She knew she could accomplish that with the right training, mindset and commitment, and was confident each of those pieces were in place.
“I got myself hooked on the idea that I could make it one day,” Reinhardt said.
So since she crossed the finish line in first place at last week’s NCAA Northeast Regional Championships at the University at Buffalo to earn her spot in Saturday’s national championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, Reinhardt has needed to process all that. Two years of chasing after the same thing finally ended in spectacular fashion when she won her program’s first-ever individual regional title.
“I felt like I was day-dreaming. It still feels like a dream,” Reinhardt said earlier this week. “I’ve been wanting to make it to nationals for so long.”
When she competes this weekend, Reinhardt will become the first Great Dane to compete at nationals since Silva Del Fava in 2013. That event will serve as a fitting finish to what has been a fall in which Reinhardt excelled in her sport and inspired many with her personal story. Reinhardt won multiple races including her second consecutive America East Conference championship during her 2019 season, plus set several program records. Away from running, Reinhardt penned an essay in late October as part of the conference’s “AE Voices” feature that detailed her chaotic childhood years that included moving from one foster home to another.
Her reason for sharing her personal tale?
“I want to be someone who shares my story because I’m not the first person, and I won’t be the last, unfortunately, that goes through the things that are less than desirable when you're going through your young adult life,” Reinhardt told The Daily Gazette earlier this month. “And I think I want to be a beacon of hope.”
Reinhardt developed her goal of reaching her sport’s national championships after she finished 24th at the 2017 regionals. She’d started her college career at UAlbany planning to be a mid-distance runner, but showed early in her freshman year that she had the potential to star in cross country. After her strong finish at the 2017 regionals as a sophomore, Reinhardt figured the next step was to make nationals as a junior.
Instead, she only moved up one spot. Reinhardt finished in 23rd place at the 2018 regionals, leaving her well shy of qualifying for nationals.
“That was a blow,” Reinhardt said. “But I think it’s just awesome that even though I had some stumbles along the way, it just speaks volumes to trusting the process and being consistent that I finally made it.”
This year, nearly everything has gone to plan for Reinhardt, who earlier this week was named Northeast Region Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, as well as an All-Northeast Region selection.
The goal for this weekend is to earn All-American status, which means a top-40 finish. Reinhardt spent her week focusing on her training and academics, the latter of which required her to spend ample time on a 50-page paper for one of her classes. She’s confident, though, as she prepares for her biggest race.
Her training has been solid. Her mindset has been sound. Her commitment has always been there.
“And I don’t want to just go to nationals to be there,” Reinhardt said. “I want to compete.”