While the lack of a high school cross country season in New York has adversely impacted many runners this fall, Hannah Ielfield has used the current situation to learn something about herself. The South Lewis senior, who is headed to The University of Mississippi next fall, discovered that speed, especially early, can make a big difference in a 5,000-meter race.
Consider the FSU XC Invitational that was held in Tallahassee on Oct. 2-3. Ielfield finished fourth in a personal best 18:34.30 at 5,000 meters. She went out quickly in that race, due in part to the fact that the rest of the field jumped out fast, and finished the first mile in 5:20, some 20 seconds quicker than she normally would.
Ielfield, as a result, began focusing more on jumping out quicker and gaining speed upon her return to New York.
"I definitely went out faster in that race and I'm not used to that," Ielfield, 17, said. "When I saw my first mile was 5:20 it was shocking. When I came home, I realized I needed to focus more on faster workouts and getting out hard in that first mile before settling into an easier pace.
"I would say my finish in that race was a byproduct of my starting fast. The guys were running in that race with the girls and that pushed me through. I was dying but I gave it my best shot. My normal first mile is 5:40 when I am running back home because I don't [normally] like to go out fast. I like to pick it up at the end, going out slower and more conservative and then crank it up."
Ielfield admits she was a bit overwhelmed at the two Florida races in which she participated - she finished second in the Florida Horse Park Invitational [19:02.98 for 5K] on Sept. 5. She didn't see the courses until she raced on them so it made for challenging affairs. That she learned from her Sunshine State experiences should be of benefit when she arrives at college next fall.
She chose Ole Miss over Manhattan and Georgetown - Ielfield wants to study exercise science - after visiting the campus in February. While she has an older sister, Hali, who runs for the Jaspers, the atmosphere at the SEC school proved to be too alluring. Ielfield said she felt at home at Ole Miss and that has her eager to begin her college experience, particularly since her final winter and spring high school seasons remain in doubt.
"That's why I am doing the club races," she said. "I want to get some times down to show my college coach. I'm looking at the positive side of things. Hopefully this [COVID-19] clears up soon and by the time I get to college it will have gone away and we can have a normal season."
Ielfield is not only looking forward to running cross country in college; she also has her sights set on the steeple chase, which she says is her favorite event. She was a Sectional champion in 2019 and finished seventh at The New Balance Nationals in the 2000-meter steeplechase.
"It's a challenging event," said Ielfield, whose personal-best in the event is 6:56.98. "It's not just running circles around the track. There are barriers to jump over and sometimes you fall. If I fall, I fall. Oh my I have taken so many falls in that event but it makes me stronger and mentally tougher. I don't mind getting wet, either."
Iefield's ultimate goal is to someday turn pro and run in the Olympic trials, regardless of the event. She admits it will be a difficult goal to achieve but she believes that if she continues on her current path, it's one that could be realistic.
She writes down her goals every week and she says that helps with motivation and achieving all of her goals.
"I write down literally anything I want to accomplish and that way if I want to reach a goal I know I have to work for it," said Ielfield, who also has a video blog about her training and 100,000 followers on TikTok. "You have to work hard because nothing is going to be easy. That's been my main focus this season. It helps me maintain a positive mindset.
"I'd rather be that way than 'Ugh, I have to run again'. I look at it like I have a goal to hit and it helps me stay focused."