FORTVILLE — Hannah Hauser’s sophomore season for the Mt. Vernon girls cross country team was pretty special.

A school record — twice — and the first from the program to reach the state finals in 18 years, Hauser is The Daily Reporter Hancock County Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

A two-time county meet champion, Hauser was the county’s best finisher in all the big races. She was third at the Hoosier Heritage Conference race, fifth at the Mt. Vernon Sectional and 17th at the Shelbyville Regional.

One of three county runners to qualify for the IHSAA Girls Cross Country State Finals, Hauser had the top finish there, too, placing 82nd.

“It was really exciting and nice to be there,” Hauser said of the state meet. “I was nervous, but I was mostly happy to be there. Even though we were bummed the whole team didn’t qualify, they were still there to support me. The race itself was rough, but it was cool to race with a bunch of girls in the same situation. It was a good environment.”

En route to the postseason, Hauser set a school record time in the 5K at the Sept. 9 Eagle Invitational at Brown County, finishing the race in 18:51.8.

“The meet where I broke the record that was the first time I was in the 18s,” Hauser said. “It was really exciting. A lot of the girls PR’d there so it was a fun meet for everybody. It was nice to get that barrier out of the way and know that I can get in the 18s.

“(Getting under 19 minutes) was a main goal for the season. I was slowly creeping up and that meet I cut a bunch of time off. It was an exciting achievement.”

In the final regular season meet of the year, The Nike Twilight race in Terre Haute, at the state meet course, she beat her time again, finishing her 5K in 18:50.

Two weeks later, finishing 17th at the regional, Hauser earned her spot at the state meet. She was the first Mt. Vernon girls cross country runner to do so since 2005 when Amye Adcock made the race.

The season wasn’t without adversity. The program’s head coach in 2022, Brian Williams, left over the summer to take a position at another school. New head coach Madison Roeder did not finish the season with the team. Lydgia Palmer, a former high school head coach and teacher in the school system, took over mid-season.

With the changes, Hauser, though a sophomore, felt she needed to show some leadership skills to help a team that included eight freshmen.

She knew what it was like to be a first-year runner. She had a great year in 2022, though the rigors of a long season took its toll on her late, not finishing the season as strong as she would have liked.

“I felt like I wanted to set a good example for the incoming freshmen, especially since we had so many,” Hauser said. “Last year, I knew what it was like to be a freshman and not really know what it’s like. I wanted to be a good leader for them.

“I feel like I tried to step up more, especially with our crazy coaching situation this year. I tried to step up and help people with workouts and help them know what to do and know where to go.”

Hauser said she learned a lot from that first season and took that experience to help her have a better sophomore year.

As a freshman, she said she ran hard all the time. Her sophomore year, she said she learned how to pace herself. She knew what days to go hard, but also knew there were days when she could go easier. She used that strategy throughout her record-setting season.

“That helped for the later meets and not dying out as fast,” she said.

After breaking the 19-minute barrier, Hauser has hopes of getting into the 17s. She said that may not happen until her senior season, but she’s going to keep working hard and pacing herself to meet that goal.

“(My) freshman (season) I had a strong start but didn’t run the best at end of the year.” Hauser said. “I feel like I definitely was able to get a lot farther in the season without dying out this year. I think I’m starting to get the hang of things and I think even though I didn’t peak at the very end I was well around the low 19s, a lot better than last year. I’m happy with how it ended.

“I’m looking forward to having consistent training (for next season). Now that our freshmen have had experience they are going to step up. There’s not a lot of new runners coming in so the team should stay relatively the same. We’ll grow and push each other more and I think we will really get better as a team.”

2023 All-Hancock County Girls Cross Country Team

Runner, School;Class

Lexie Copeland, Greenfield-Central;11

Emma Gale, Mt. Vernon;11

Hannah Hauser, Mt. Vernon;10

Josie Kinnaman, Greenfield-Central;9

Makenna Laffey, Mt. Vernon;9

Courtney Study, New Palestine;12

Chesnie Willis, Mt. Vernon;9

Athlete of the Year: Hannah Hauser, Mt. Vernon

Coach of the Year: Lydgia Palmer, Mt. Vernon

Honorable mention: Eastern Hancock — Sydney Johnson. Greenfield-Central — Adalyn Cole. Mt. Vernon — Tenley Benz, Emma Gasiorek, Julia Iserloth, Kenydi Russell, Lily Quinn. New Palestine – Amelia Stone.