Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor track star Carroll headed south, signs with LSU

Gig Harbor’s Hannah Carroll won the 3A girls 400-meter race at the 2017 Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School.
Gig Harbor’s Hannah Carroll won the 3A girls 400-meter race at the 2017 Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School. Staff file, 2017

Gig Harbor High School track star Hannah Carroll has always wanted to pave her own path in life. So she’s getting out her comfort zone by signing her National Letter of Intent to run track at Louisiana State University.

Baton Rouge is a far cry from Gig Harbor, in terms of not only distance, but culture, as well. Carroll’s older brother, Logan, studied and ran at the University of North Carolina, but aside from that, she doesn’t have much of a connection to the south.

“I kind of wanted to make a way on my own, not just following in my family’s footsteps,” Carroll said. “I didn’t really think it was so far away until I got out there for a visit.”

She’ll have to acclimate to a different climate, different culture, change her spelling of “Go” to “Geaux” and maybe accommodate some “y’all” into her vernacular.

“Down there, I think they thought I was the one with the accent,” Carroll said. “It’s definitely going to be different.”

But for Carroll, LSU felt like home. Standing in front of the huge Louisiana State University sign on campus, she had a moment of clarity in her recruiting process.

“I just knew that this is the place for me,” Carroll said.

It’s been a lifelong dream for Carroll to run in college. At the Class 3A state championship meet at Mount Tahoma High School last spring, Carroll led the Tides’ girls track team to the state title, winning the 400-meters at 55.38 seconds, the 200-meters at 25 flat, and was part of Gig Harbor’s 4x100 (first) and 4x400 (fourth) relays.

“The (LSU coaches) liked my speed, like that I run a pretty quick 400,” she said. “They think I could be a really good 800 runner, also. They think I haven’t reached my potential yet.”

While Carroll has focused primarily on the 100, 200 and 400 meters in high school, she expects to focus more on the 400 and 800 in college, adding a bit more distance to her repertoire.

Carroll, who also took official visits to Iowa, Texas and Colorado State, originally discovered LSU when researching schools that offered speech pathology courses. So when Carroll learned LSU offered the major, Carroll sent an email to assistant coach Mark Rinker, the team’s middle distance and distance coach. He got back to her shortly thereafter.

But Carroll suffered a brutal setback last fall on the soccer field, when an opposing player went in hard for a tackle, causing Carroll to tear her ACL, MCL and partially tear her meniscus. She had surgery on Nov. 27. At the time, Carroll still hadn’t committed to a college. She called Rinker to give him the news, wondering if they’d still even have any interest in recruiting her.

“He was nothing but supportive,” Carroll said. “They didn’t have to keep their offer. But he told me that it doesn’t change anything and he knew I’d work hard to get back. I felt so relieved and supported. I had that moment of, ‘Who else would do that?’ They just went above and beyond for me.”

Carroll will likely miss the entirety of her senior track season this spring, still recovering from the injury. But she said she’ll take plenty of life lessons with her from Gig Harbor track coach Kevin Eager.

“I think he’s prepared me more than I could imagine,” Carroll said. “I have nothing but good things to say about coach Eager. He’s been so supportive of me. … He’s prepared me so well, helped talk me through the recruiting process. He was really excited about me choosing LSU. That made me comfortable, just knowing I had that support.”