Justin Hager: Peak To Peak To Furman


Justin Hager's Best Marks

800 - 2:01.47

1,600 - 4:34.43

5k - 16:25


Q) Talk about the recruitment process - what other schools were you looking at, and how did you come to choosing the Furman?

When I began my college searching process last fall, I did not really know what I wanted in a college or really where in the country I wanted to go. All I knew was that I wanted to study math and wanted to run. I looked at some in-state schools including CU, Mines, and Colorado College as well as a few other schools across the country. As I got decisions back and talked to different coaches, I still didn't see much clarity in where I was going.

It wasn't until Quinn (McConnell) committed to Furman that I found out about the school. I decided I would look into as one of my closest friends was going there and I wanted to know more about it.

A few months later, I visited the campus and absolutely loved it. It had the classic southern charm which is hard to deny and felt like a great fit for me. I was really sold after meeting the coaches, meeting a few of the runners, and getting a running tour of the school. They really do have such a growth-centered mindset and a community of a school unlike any other place I toured. I eagerly await the next four years of running and academics in programs where I will be able to grow immensely.

Q) What do you plan to study at Furman?

Next year at Furman, I plan to study Applied Mathematics. I have always been very interested in math and have always planned to go into that field after high school. I opted this year to take two math classes, Differential Equations and Multivariable Calculus. The small class sizes and individualized attention of Furman will allow me to get a spectacular education.

Q) What got you into track and field in the first place?

Knowing both Tiana Bradfield and Anna Shults since kindergarten and Quinn McConnell since middle school, I had been familiar with track and cross country but never had any intentions of trying it myself. On school registration of my sophomore year, about a week before the start of the cross country season, my parents were nudging me to try a sport but I didn't really have much interest in anything. As I was leaving registration, Tiana dragged me over to our spectacular coach, Coach McConnell, and signed me up for the team. My first season was very challenging, though it never got easier, and also a huge learning experience. I ended up loving my team, the sport, and running in general and decided to stick with it.

Q) You've had success in everything from the 800 on up to the 5k, what would you say your favorite event is, and why?

Between both Track and Cross Country, I would have to say my favorite event is the 800. It really does live up to its name of being the most challenging track event and race around. Though I do really enjoy the 5k and the 10k, the true grit produced by the 800 is unlike anything else and I find that to be very special.

Q) You finished 137th at state (Cross Country) your sophomore year before leaping to 34th your junior year, and then to 15th your senior year, talk about the journey and what it took to make such an improvement over the past few years.

All of the improvement that I have had is 100% attributed to Coach McConnell's holistic approach to our team. From my first day of cross country sophomore year, we were a team. Team was and still is everything. Over the times and the places at workouts and races, we've focused on how to be great team members, how to respect our competitors, and how to use the strength of the pack to achieve great things. I often reflect on how none of us individually could have won the state meet but rather the combination of seven very talented runners all working as a closely knit family being the cause. Simultaneously, I don't want to just sweep all of the training under the carpet. Coach McConnell's very intelligently thought out training calendar and personalized attention to each athlete was the driving cause of the success over the past three years. It was the day after day of long runs, aerobic work, challenging repeats, and recovery that ultimately created the success.

Q) What event do you see yourself focusing on at Furman?

Next year at Furman, I see myself focusing mainly on the 1600/1500 and the 800 as I am currently doing this season. However, I am very excited to try Steeplechase next track season. It seems like an event that keeps the true cross country spirit during the track season and an event that builds and tests a huge amount of athleticism.

Q) Could you share any goals you have for the track season?

Though I do have some time goals for this season, my biggest goals are related to the state meet. My junior year track season, our 4x800 team qualified for state and had the privilege of competing in that event at the state meet. It was unlike any other race in which I had ever competed and I am very grateful for that opportunity. This year, my goals expand off of last year. I hope to be competing in the 800, 1600, and 4x800 at state this year and have goals of placing highly in each event. Over my individual events, I think our 4x800 team has a lot of potential to place very well. We will work very hard these next 3-4 weeks of the season for a great state meet this May!

Q) What would your favorite high school moment be (so far)?

My favorite memory from all of high school would undoubtedly be my team's Cross Country State Championship this past fall. With a majority of our team being seniors, the journey to state becomes something quite remarkable to reflect on.

My sophomore year, as I talked about before, was my first time ever running the epitomic cross country course that we call state. We finish 15th as a team but found our major victory in qualifying for the state meet. Next cross country season we, as a team, did a little bit of goal setting and concluded in a common goal of being a top 3 team finisher at the state meet.

Through another cross country season of tough training, we realized this goal, finishing third in the state. We repeated the same goal setting process this past season; however, we set out goals at our summer training camp in July. We already had a solid month of training under our belts but had our eyes set on something even bigger than just individual times or a solid season. We wanted to win state.

Flash-forward to that late October morning, that goal was achieved by a group of incredibly talented and dedicated runners. We won state as a family, over just as a team, returning the same seven runners from the year before. Though it was a close win with only a four-point lead over our fantastic and very capable competitors Salida, the culmination of three years of training ended in a victory I will never forget.