Hannah McInturff , Utah Cross Country August 24, 2016 in Salt Lake City, UT. (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)

A little over four years ago, a piece of paper was signed on a Thursday afternoon at Century High School in Pocatello, Idaho. Five-time high school state champion Hannah McInturff was signing her National Letter of Intent to run for the University of Utah. However, the decision to continue running post high school meant McInturff had to give up the other sport she had come to love. A few years prior to that Thursday afternoon, McInturff was taking laps in the pool instead of around the track.

McInturff grew up swimming with her sisters. Her older sister was a former member of the Utah swim team back in 2003-07. Throughout McInturff’s high school career, she felt like she could participate in both swimming and running, and that’s what she did.

In her first three seasons, McInturff won three 4A 800-meter state championships and two 1600-meter titles. She discovered the majority of her talent was in running, and she came to believe that was the road to take over swimming.

“She always had a love for swimming,” said Don McInturff, Hannah’s father. “Being from a small town, a lot of people swam, but we felt she had a lot more talent in running. It took a little bit of pushing for her to realize that. Finally she saw what we did, that she could have more growth as a runner than as a swimmer.”

Hannah made her mark as a runner in high school and she was recruited by Utah, Boise State and Illinois State. When it came time for her to make her decision of where to run at the collegiate level, she knew she had made the right one to come and run for the Utes.

When Hannah came to Utah in 2013, she quickly faced trials in the form of injuries. She suffered stress fractures in her feet her first year, forcing her to red-shirt the 2013 cross country and 2014 indoor and outdoor track season.

“I knew that coach [Kyle] Kepler brought me here for a purpose,” Hannah said. “I wanted to be a part of the team chemistry that we have. I knew I was hurt on the outside, but I knew what I felt on the inside. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to keep going and get back out there to help my team be successful.”

After her return in 2014 for the cross country season, Hannah placed No. 86 overall at the NCAA Regional Championships in the 6k. In the 2015 season she helped lead Utah to the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history where she placed No. 104 overall. Hannah helped the Utes return in 2016 to the NCAA Championships where she finished No. 60 overall.

“My whole team is an inspiration to me,” Hannah said. “I see girls go through injuries, get back up and help us become stronger as a team. We’ve seen success, and I know we can continue to see success. I want to qualify for Nationals again, but I also want to enjoy my last year. I want to build relationships that will last a life time, and I want to make an impact on my team that will be remembered by my teammates and future runners.”

Over the course of her athletic career, Hannah has gone from two different sports, to the bench because of injury and back to the track. She has overcome obstacles, hot days, critics and competition, but all of that has taught her who she really is.

“I can go on-and-on about what running has taught me,” Hannah said. “But what I’ve learned the most, is that every individual is important, and they all have their own ability. I can only do the best I can do the day I’m doing it, and as long as I know I’m doing my best, I’m happy.”

s.funk@dailyutahchronicle.com

@scottfunk0

Scott Funk is currently interning as a sports writer for The Daily Utah Chronicle. He completed an internship with Cumulus Media before writing for The Globe at Salt Lake Community College. He also recently completed an internship with ESPN 700.

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