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Hannah Eastman’s historic 6K run sets new SEMO standard
On September 29, 2023, graduate student Hannah Eastman, representing Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), left an indelible mark at the Gans Creek Classic.
Amidst stiff competition featuring 270 athletes from 21 different schools, Eastman's performance stood out, as she crossed the finish line in a time of 21 minutes and 12.5 seconds, securing a remarkable tenth-place finish overall. However, it was her breaking of the 6000-meter school record that truly showcased her dedication and athletic prowess.
The previous record, established in 2016, was defeated by Eastman by a mere 1.9 seconds.
This achievement firmly establishes her in SEMO's cross-country history.
“I tried to run an even pace and stay with the top pack of girls. I knew that there would be some national caliber runners in that race, so I had an idea of who would beat me and who I would be close to in time and tried to stay with the people that I would be closer to,” Eastman said.
Eastman's journey to this record-breaking moment has been marked by consistent excellence in the world of collegiate athletics.
Her impressive resume includes multiple accolades and personal bests, demonstrating her exceptional talent and unwavering commitment to the sport.
In the 2023 outdoor season, Eastman achieved four top-three finishes, including a fourth-place finish in the 3000-meter event at the Mississippi State Bulldog Relays, clocking in at 10:30.27. Her prowess was further highlighted by a first-place finish in the 5000-meter event at the 2023 Joey Haines Invite, with an impressive time of 17:13.87.
Eastman then secured second place in the 5000-meter event at the Memphis Tiger Invitational, setting a new personal best with a time of 17:09.14.
Her remarkable performance continued at the 2023 Outdoor OVC Championships, where she clinched two second-place finishes, covering the 5000 meters in 17:34.91 and the 10,000 meters in 37:23.09, marking a new personal record.
In the indoor season, Eastman continued to shine, posting five top-five finishes and four top-two finishes. She set a new personal best in the 3000 meters at the 2023 Redhawks Invite with a time of 10:07.17.
At the John Gartland Invitational, she secured first place in the distance medley relay with a time of 13:33.64 and set a PR in the mile with a time of 5:01.51.
Eastman's journey to this achievement has not been without its share of adversity.
Despite being a part of the SEMO Cross Country team since her freshman year, she faced several setbacks, including a shortened season due to COVID-19 her first year and a challenging recovery from a torn ACL her second year. Additionally, she overcame low iron levels, which affected her performance the following year.
Head Cross Country Coach Ryan Lane praised Eastman's resilience, stating, "Hannah is one of the tougher athletes I've ever coached. She is able to run through discomfort or even pain better than the average person.”
He continues, “When you have a cross country race or a longer race in track, you have to be able to grind and embrace being uncomfortable, and she does that really well."
In the past two years, Eastman's training has been consistent, and she is now completely healthy. She typically averages around 70 miles a week.
Her record-breaking achievement has forced her to reevaluate her goals, and she looks forward to reaching new heights.
“I think everything has changed now. I’ve never been this fit so I have to take another look at all of my goals, which is pretty awesome to be able to say,” Eastman said.