NOTE: This is part of a series on athletics.covenant.edu with feature stories written by the student-athletes about their time at Covenant. The series is in conjunction with NCAA Division III Week (April 2-8), an annual event to celebrate the accomplishments on and off the field of student-athletes in the NCAA's largest division.
By Hannah Hennigh
(Covenant '18; Women's Track & Field)
I never thought I'd be one of those people who ended up transferring colleges.
Having graduated from a boarding school in Kenya, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the small Christian college near Philadelphia that I attended my freshman year. Although I had met incredible people and grown more than I expected at my previous school, a month before summer ended after my freshman year, I decided that I didn't want to return to that school in the fall.
I had heard Covenant's name thrown around a couple times, however had never visited the school. I soon learned that Covenant's campus was more intentional than I had expected about walking with students through life and helping us understand who we are and our purpose as Christians. After applying, being accepted, and having a lot of different doors open up, I ended up on Lookout Mountain for the first time, about to start my sophomore year of college. I felt like I was about to redo my freshman year; I still couldn't believe I was transferring.
Looking back, I never anticipated running track in college, or being a student-athlete for that matter. Growing up, I had always run, but saw running as a way of training for soccer season or just staying in shape; a misconception I think many people have. I had never thought I would actually be able to be competitive in a sport like track. When I heard that Covenant was starting an official track & field team, a close friend of mine and I decided to try out for the team. I had no idea track would become such a central part of my time at Covenant.
From the little things of giving me a scheduled day to the consistency of training with teammates and friends, running track has made my time at Covenant greater than I had expected. Some of my greatest friendships have come out of running track. There is something to be said about training day in and day out with the same people, who know how to push you when you don't think you can push anymore. These teammates, my friends, also end up being the ones who motivate you to run your best race.
One of the harder things about racing is that it can easily become an individual sport, and so getting a chance to run in relays and train together has been one of the most important parts of track for me. I think this can be said for most student-athletes that the team you are on and how much you invest in the people on that team will always make or break your experience. I can't even start to describe the motivation I feel when I hear my teammates yelling for me to kick in at the curve of my 200 meter or 400 meter or encouraging me on my last 100 meters of the 4x400 relay when I think my legs are about to fall off.
My longest race, the 400 meter, is over in a little over a minute but although it is a sprint, there are ample moments to think during the race. The mental battle begins for me after the first 100 meters and I've learned to loosen up and relax my body as I run the first straightaway. During this time, I often think of how incredible it is to be able to run, how we were made to move and work. Even though my legs and arms are aching by the end of the race, every millisecond counts towards my time and I know that each part of my training, whether strength, speed, agility, or endurance are all affecting the race I am running at that moment.
Being a student-athlete has shaped the way I think about my training, about those I'm training with and for and why I'm doing what I'm doing. It has formed healthy and competitive habits in me that I hope I will carry with me as I enter my adult life.
Every aspect of my training is geared toward getting stronger and faster. In the midst of that, running track at Covenant has reminded me that it is not just about getting new PRs or winning your heat. It is about contributing to the team and working hard during practice and meets for YOUR team and giving your all to contribute to a growing track and field program. Getting to be a part of the first three years of Covenant's official track and field program has been an amazing experience that will always be one of the most significant parts of my college years. It has challenged me to push myself, physically and mentally, harder than I thought I ever could and to work hard for my team and the growth and success of the track and field program here at Covenant.