by James Stitt
Watertown-Mayer graduate Hannah Truniger decided to give competitive running one more chance when she moved on to the University of Northern Iowa, thinking her racing days were coming to an end due to lingering injuries. Yet rather than slide into her twilight years of running, Truniger exploded onto the national and international scene with a tremendous rebirth.
“I had a lot of success in high school, but I was just injured so much that I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll try it one year and then probably just focus on my education,” the UNI freshman said. “This year I dropped 2 minutes off of my 5k time and I placed in conference in cross country and track as a
freshman. So many cool things have happened. I’m really so blessed and very thankful to God for everything.”
A breakout season at UNI that included conference honors in track and field as well as the award for Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year has led to Truniger representing Team USA in Peru later this month. After qualifying for the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships in the 5,000 meter run, Truniger raced to a second-place finish, sending her on to the Pan American Junior Championships Lima, Peru, July 21-23.
While Truniger may have been surprised at her success, those around her knew her work ethic would take her far.
Hannah is definitely the most competitive athlete I have come into contact with,” said Alex Wilson, assistant coach at UNI. “You know you are going to get every ounce of ability in her.”
That hard work transcends her racing career. The daughter of Linus and Elizabeth, Truniger was on the high honor roll in high school and was given the Student of Excellence in Science and Spanish Award, and is now majoring in physics and bio medical engineering at UNI.
“I love racing . . It has taught me a lot about hard work,” she said. “I can apply the lessons I’ve learned from running to school work and working hard at my job because it has taught me to work hard. I love that.”
Hard work has allowed Truniger to push through seemingly insurmountable obstacles, even though she could have been content with what most would call a pretty impressive resume. Running for Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran, Truniger was a two-time runner-up at the state track meet in the two-mile run, finished third overall as a senior at the state cross country meet, holds the school record in the 3,200 meters, won conference titles in the 3,200 meters and the 1,600 meters and was named the Team MVP as a senior. Despite the impressive resume, Truniger wasn’t even close to her true potential. As a Panther, Truniger dropped a whopping 2 minutes off of her best time, running 16 minutes, 23 seconds. Truniger credits the UNI program, as the coaches and trainers have helped her overcome the lingering injuries while also allowing her to train more.
“In high school I was very low mileage because of my injuries,” Truniger said. “I would run 10-15 miles a week and swim, which is nothing compared to most high school runners. And in college they bumped me up to 25, because I was able to get a lot of good treatment everyday from the therapists and trainers there. That helped, the training helped – being able to get the treatment I needed and get injury free.”
Truniger’s mileage has gone up, but it is still a lot less than other competitors. She estimates that she runs 25-30 miles a week, whereas other tally 55-60. But just because she runs less doesn’t mean she works less – it is actually the opposite.
Because she has been prone to injuries, Truniger’s training regimen consists mostly of water exercise. She will often be in the pool for hours, getting the same result that would cost others a fraction of the time running.
“It’s easy mentally to go out for a run,” Truniger said. “But to cross train, to be in a pool for a couple hours, you have to work a lot harder to get the same affects. And running is obviously funner.”
Wilson said that cross training takes an extra level of dedication because there is a lot more time needed to work in the pool versus a traditional run, and the athlete is not working out doing what they love.
“It’s easy to go out for a run if you love running,” Wilson said. “She is swimming, biking and other things that runners don’t like doing.”
At UNI, Truniger has found a perfect place to flourish. In what could have been her last year of competitive running, the Watertown-Mayer graduate has found a second wind.
“I came into the year not really expecting a whole lot from the track team,” she said. “I kind of thought that I would just run a year in college and try it out, and I ended up with a lot of success this year. I love the coaches, I love the team. They are very supportive. It’s kind of a perfect fit for me because it is kind of a smaller school and the coaches don’t push me beyond what I’m able to do. I’ve been injury prone and they’re super supportive.”