WXHS runner third at nationalsDec 29, 2022 09:03AM ● By Catherine Garrett
It’s in the DNA. And yet, Woods Cross High School senior Sam Hansen is making his own name in cross country after a third-place finish at the Champs Sports National Cross Country Championships in San Diego, Calif. Dec. 10.
“I definitely defied my own expectations in the race as I was going for top 10,” Hansen said. “Everyone went out pretty fast and I was dead last out of 40 runners. Then, I started passing a lot of people and was able to use my long kick to pull into second place with a couple of runners behind me.” Minnesota’s Noah Breker edged him at the finish line, leaving him in third place by .02 seconds.
WXHS cross country coach Zach Hansen, who is not related to Sam despite the same last name, said, “I couldn’t be more proud of Sam’s performance at nationals. He has always been a hard worker, but after the disappointment at state [where he placed 12th], I would have understood if he had allowed that experience to negatively affect his preparation for nationals. Instead, he never acted discouraged and kept a very positive attitude. He worked extremely hard during that time with a renewed focus and intensity. Seeing all of his hard work pay off at nationals was purely awesome.”
The Hansen family is no stranger to the Wildcats cross country program as Jacob and Carlee, who was a three-time 5A state champion, are now current collegiate runners at MIT and North Carolina, respectively. Katie, who is a sophomore at Woods Cross, has been the top girls finisher at the 5A state meet the past two seasons – including a 10th place showing this fall. Additionally, Sam’s parents were both involved in running in their youth – his dad Andrew competed for a small school in Idaho while his mom Sarah was an All-State hurdler in California. His uncle, Scott Hansen, was also involved in the sport and ran for Utah State in the late ‘90s.
Sam, who was Region 5’s top runner the past two years, had placed third at the 2021 5A state championships, but an Achilles injury midway through this fall season set the senior back from his goal to get to the top of the state podium. Instead, he finished 12th.
Even when he couldn’t participate in full practices or even run for nearly three weeks, he cross-trained to stay in shape and then rebounded with a first-place showing at the Champs Sports Cross Country Western Regional Championships Dec. 3. “I just ‘sent it’ at regionals and winning there made me more confident heading into nationals that I could do well,” he said.
“Sam is an amazing example to his team and family of how the little things make the difference,” his mom Sarah Hansen said. “He sets little goals such as ab circuit, cross training during injuries, drinking water, eating the right foods, sleeping and staying on top of homework. He is an example of how the little things can make the big things happen.”
Sam grew up playing soccer for 10 years and then picked up running in the eighth grade. “I tried running because of my family and I had a good time with it,” he said. “Then, I realized I was good at it and quit playing soccer to focus on running.”
He said Coach Hansen and fellow WXHS coach Sam Wood were instrumental in his development, as he became the Wildcats’ top runner by his sophomore season. “They don’t get as much credit as they should,” Sam Hansen said. “They are really good coaches and have a great training plan for us. They really helped me a lot.”
“He couldn’t have had the success he’s had without his coaches,” Sarah Hansen echoed.
Sam said that the journey as a cross country athlete has taught him the importance of committing to something every day with intentionality, whether that is in his workouts, his diet, his schooling or just improving in general. “I’ve learned how to ‘send it’ when I need to and push through when it hurts,” he said. “I’ve got pretty good grit which is important in distance running.”
He plans to follow his older siblings in running collegiately and is currently exploring his options.
“Sam has no fear when it comes to competing,” Coach Hansen said. “It doesn’t matter who the competition is, he will go into that race with the belief that he can run with and beat anyone, and he has an amazing work ethic to back up that belief.”