Hannah Brookover's running resume is dominated with phenomenal races in track and field. Her stunning, out-of-nowhere performance in the 1,600 meters — where she finished fourth at last year's Class A state meet — offered a huge boost in stature.
That race was not a blip, even with her transition from soccer. Rather it is hard evidence the slow, steady climb by the Calvary Christian sophomore is finally reaching the realm of distance running legitimacy.
She has been working toward a top-three finish at a state event, and now the opportunity is here. Saturday, Brookover will race in the Class A state cross country meet in Tallahassee, where she is seeded third after running last week's region meet in a personal-best 18 minutes, 31.77 seconds.
"I feel like I can do pretty well," Brookover said. "I think I have a chance to win."
Brookover's surge to the top has been a remarkable transformation. A soccer player for 11 years, she decided to try cross country and track last year at the urging of her mother, Tricia Brookover, a track star at Florida who is now the cross country coach at Calvary.
Last year at state, Brookover finished 21st in 19:47. She continued to improve in track in the 800 and 1,600.
But she made her biggest strides this summer after she stopped playing club soccer to concentrate on distance events.
Brookover's training regimen did not include logging numerous miles. Rather she did interval training, using a variety of distances designed to work on her speed.
That has helped Brookover at the start, where she has made a habit of turning races into sprints. By pushing the pace mercilessly, Brookover has usually been able to pull away from a staggering field.
Saturday she will face accomplished colleagues such as two-time defending state champion Julie Wollrath of Melbourne Holy Trinity and Shorecrest's Alex Eaton, who was third at last year's state meet.
Though Brookover set a personal record last week, she was unable to maintain her swift early pace and was caught by hard-charging pursuers, finishing behind Wollrath and Sarasota Cardinal Mooney's Grace Casagrande, the top two runners entering Saturday's meet.
Still, Brookover doesn't plan to change her style and wants to keep company with the elite runners in her classification for as long as possible.
"I'm confident I can stay with the lead group," she said. "I did last week and stayed with them until the 2-mile mark. I think I can stay with them the whole way and have a chance at the end."
Eaton leads a strong group of Chargers runners who were second as a team at last week's region meet and will be looking to place in the top three at state. Palm Harbor University's Sarah Raymond has a chance at a top-10 finish in 4A.
In the Class A boys meet, Shorecrest's Luke Peterson and Ross Porter, third and fourth at last week's region meet, are the top two contenders. They will also try to help the Chargers finish in the top 10. Region runnerup Indian Rocks Christian could join Shorecrest near the top of the team standings.