Arizona's Hannah Moen: Small Voice, Big Talent
By Brian Anthony Price
Her voice is tiny, but her words are loud and proud: "This is the moment I've been anticipating!"
Hannah Moen, Arizona's cross-country star junior, has wasted no time building off successful 2008 and 2009 seasons and is now eager to lead.
"I'm excited to become a leader of this team, help guide the freshman and make Wildcats cross country a force to be reckoned with," Moen said.
So far so good. At Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., Arizona women's cross country took second in their section. Moen finished 11th overall in the 6,000-meter race with a time of 20:36. She was also the top finishing Wildcat. It was a historic race for the women's cross-country program, as the second place finish was the best finish at a Pre-National meet ever for Arizona. What's more, UA women were the only program to place four runners in the top 25.
For Moen, the recent success has been a boost.
"When I first got to Arizona, we were hoping just to qualify for Nationals. The whole reason I came was to help build the program. Now all of a sudden we've got four potential All-Americans."
In addition to Moen, freshman Elvin Kibet and sophomores Jennifer Bergman and Megan Meyer add a lot of depth to this year's team.
Moen grew up in Flagstaff, Ariz., and attended Coconino High School, where she was All-City Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2007.
She first developed her passion for running as a junior in high school.
"After my first race in high school I crossed the finish line happy with how I did, but in more pain than I could ever imagine," she said. "However, the pain and exhaustion were an indicator of how hard I had worked. From that moment I couldn't wait to get back out on the course."
It also helped bring her in touch with her faith.
"I have a strong faith and I feel God gave me this wonderful gift," Moen said. "When I'm running, I feel like I'm doing what He wants me to do and I feel closer to Him."
Moen is also extremely close with her parents, Layne and Michelle.
"Neither of them ran cross-country but were always extremely supportive of me. I think they really enjoyed learning a new sport through my participation in it," she said.
Moen was eager to stay close to home, so when Arizona assistant coach Erin Dawson reached out to the Moen family, she was already psyched.
"The visit was all I needed," Moen said. "I pretty much decided after my first step on campus that I wanted to become a Wildcat."
She loved the friendly and outgoing atmosphere as well as the tremendous support system at Arizona when she arrived in the fall of 2009
"The team was very goal oriented. The coaches were eager to make Arizona a contender and the idea of helping to rebuild a program was appealing to me," she said.
In Moen's freshman year, she was often a top three finisher. She also logged a successful track and field campaign setting a freshman record in the 3000-meter steeplechase clocking in at 10:28.48. As a sophomore, Moen came back hungrier than ever.
"I wanted to prove to myself that freshman year was no fluke and that I could be a consistent contributor," she said.
Among her sophomore accomplishments, Moen set a school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:13.13. That determination, while instrumental in her success, also led to injury.
"I was so eager to continue improving that I never gave my body a chance to recover after injuries. It got to a point [last season] that my running form included a limp. After an injury I'd rush myself back to running and not take the proper time to heal and recover. I came into this [current] season really motivated, but that doesn't mean I have to push through an injury. I've learned to listen to my body and rest when I need to."
After an injury plagued sophomore year, she's enjoyed the benefits of good health this season. Thus far, Moen has been shin-splint and tendinitus-free which she attributes to proper rest, diet and stretching daily. Including Pre-Nationals, she has been the top Wildcat finisher in two of the three team races this season.
Maintaining the right mind-body balance is a challenge in cross-country. There exists a race mentality and an in-training mentality.
"Freshmen have a tendency to push the pace of practice too much. I was certainly guilty of that as I was so excited to be on the team and eager to make an impression," Moen said. "The upperclassmen want them to understand practice is a time for us to maintain a moderate pace and log miles. We can save the all-out mentality for race-day."
The women have been comfortably logging 60 miles a week.
"Assistant coach Erin [Dawson] is very emotional and knows how to get us pumped up on race day while head coach [James] Li helps keep our nerves calm," Moen said. "They really balance each other out. It helps us maintain our sanity. Coach Li also keeps us conscious that the season is long-term endeavor and we have to understand the big picture."
The big picture now seems to be a run at a national title.
"We're out there," Moen said proudly. "So other teams better watch out."
Arizona women's and men's cross-country next compete on October 30th at the Pac-10 championships in Seattle, Washington.