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Iowa Pacesetter: Central's Ford balances swimming, cross country
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IOWA PACESETTER | HANNAH FORD

Iowa Pacesetter: Central's Ford balances swimming, cross country

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In the early morning hours, you'll find Hannah Ford in the Davenport Central Natatorium swimming hundreds of yards. In the afternoon, she'll be logging miles on the pavement or on a grassy path in Davenport.

Ford is attempting to pull off a rare and grueling sports double this fall season.

The sophomore competes in swimming and cross country for the Blue Devils.

“I couldn’t imagine leaving one for the other,” Ford said, “so I just decided I’ll do both. My coaches are so supportive of me doing both.”

And this week’s Iowa Pacesetter is quite talented in both sports.

Ford went to the Schoolhouse Open cross country meet in Clinton last Tuesday and blitzed the field by 48 seconds. About 48 hours later, she won the 500-yard freestyle in the pool in a dual meet against Rock Island. Then on Saturday, Ford capped her week with an eighth-place finish (third among Iowa runners) at the prestigious Spartan Challenge.

“She’s just a beast,” Central girls cross country coach Mike Trujillo said.

“She’s an Energizer Bunny,” Blue Devils swim coach Brian Heller said. “She can just keep going. It is really hard to get her to that aerobic threshold. When everyone else is struggling a little bit, the only thing she’s doing is shivering because the water is so cold.”

Ford has been swimming most of her life, joining the Davenport Metro Swim Team as a 7-year-old. The friendships she formed there have carried on to high school.

“I’ve grown up swimming with some of these people and it is just a great environment to be in,” Ford said. “We’re a really close team, so hanging out with my friends every day is a reason that I want to come to practice.”

Ford has been primarily a distance swimmer for the Blue Devils participating in the 200 and 500 freestyles. She also has some interest in the 100 backstroke.

While she remains competitive, swimming is more for enjoyment.

"I've swam all my life and there comes a point where I think I've almost peaked and it is hard for me to get a lot better," Ford said. "I'm still pretty good, but not as good as some other people.

"I don't think I could ever quit swimming because I've put so much of my life into it. A lot of these girls are my best friends."

Ford picked up running more recently.

After performing well at a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot several years ago, her parents urged Ford to give cross country a try in eighth grade. She had some success and started out in Central’s program last year before making a decision to concentrate on swimming.

But after an enjoyable experience last spring on the track & field team, Ford elected to come back out for cross country this fall.

"She's figured out how to do both this year," Trujillo said.

Ford covered the 5,000-meter course at Emma Young Park in Clinton in 19 minutes, 1 second — a personal best by more than two minutes.

She finished 48 seconds ahead of Clinton sophomore Camryn Sattler, a state qualifier as a freshman.

"I was shocked," Ford said, "because (Camryn) and I went back and forth a lot in our races during track season."

Then at Saturday’s Spartan Challenge, Ford crossed on a hilly Crow Creek Park course in 19:43. Pleasant Valley standout freshman Grace Boleyn and Johnston’s Olivia Verde, who was sixth at last year’s state meet, were the only Iowa runners to beat her.

“I always knew I was pretty good at running, but I never really realized my full potential,” Ford said. “This season has made me see how much I could actually run in the future. At this point in time, I’m thinking about running in college over swimming because I’ve excelled more at it.”

There are only a couple of meet conflicts in the schedule. Most of the Mississippi Athletic Conference swimming dual meets are on Tuesday nights and the majority of cross country competitions are on Thursday.

The bigger challenge is balancing the practice schedule between the two sports and remaining fresh throughout the week.

"Both sports are mainly cardio-based, so training for one benefits the other," Ford said. "I also want to make sure I don't overexert myself so I can still perform at a good capability without getting hurt."

Heller and his coaching staff are cognizant of that.

"Being sore is really part of athletics in general, but I know my assistant and myself watch carefully to see if there is any unusual aches and pains," Heller said. "If something is lingering, we'll hold back as much as we can."

Ford relishes the chaotic lifestyle. On a recent off day, she went for a run.

"When I have a rest day, I go insane out of my mind," Ford said. "My parents are always like, 'You need to take it easy.' I feel like I should be doing something right now."

Between 10 to 12 practices a week and multiple competitions, fatigue sets in.

"By the time I hit Wednesday, I'm pretty tired," Ford said, "but the thing I have to tell myself pain is temporary. This will all pay off."

It has left some of her classmates in awe.

"I'll walk into class and they are like, 'How are you even awake right now?'" Ford said.

Ford is a part of two programs on the rise. Central is among the state's top 15 in the latest power swim rankings and the cross country team arguably has its best squad in more than a decade.

But more than winning and losing, it is about the relationships.

"If I did just swimming, all my school friends would be swim friends," Ford said. "This way, I've also gotten to know a lot more people and build more friendships.

"I have a strong bond with all the people on both teams, so having two positive environments to be involved with every day is a lot of fun."

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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 21 years, the last nine at the Q-C Times.

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