Illini Women's Cross Country runner Winter happy to choose running at an early age

By Mike Gasick

A child’s first experiences with sports are often monumental.

Maybe it was the first time they scored in a soccer match, hit a t-ball or made a basket. Popular sports like soccer, baseball and basketball are outlets for children to participate in physical activity and have fun.

But, for Illinois women’s cross-country junior Hanna Winter, there is no specific memory from her early childhood athletic career that sticks out to her. Unlike many of her peers in elementary school, Winter quietly chose running as a hobby.

Winter started running in fifth grade because she saw that some of her good friends were starting to run for enjoyment and thought she would give it a try. She eventually wanted to become more of a competitive runner.

Winter attended Saint Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where she was a four-time state qualifier in cross-country and three-time state qualifier in track.

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Winter limited her college options to Purdue and Illinois because she wanted to be in a prominent conference like the Big Ten. She ultimately chose Illinois because she felt it offered her a quality combination of athletics and academics.

Winter likes her team’s bond and looks forward to spending time with her teammates whenever she has the opportunity. She noted that bus rides to away meets are one of the most enjoyable parts of being on the team.

“I really like the relationship we have as a team and how we can be competitive with each other,” Winter said. “We can be really fun and caring toward each other.”

Winter is someone who’d rather help to accomplish team-oriented goals instead of her own. The team would like to stay in the top half of the Big Ten this season, and Winter wants to provide a major contribution to that.

She has some momentum from the spring track season that she is looking to carry over to the fall. Running the 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and the 5,000 meters she recorded one win and four total top five finishes. Her victory came in the 3,000 at the Black and Gold Invite.

It’s not all serious business for Winter, though, who thinks she brings a more fun aspect to the Illini — something she believes is necessary in order to keep them loose over the course of the season.

Winter has participated in two of the team’s three meets this season. She was the fifth Illini to finish at the ISU Invite and third at the Roy Griak Invitational. Winter will look to keep the positive mood for the Illini going in light of their next race — the Pre-Nationals on Oct. 17 in Louisville, Kentucky.[email protected]?