Leader Blues

Friday, May 15, 2009

SPORTS >> Going out in style

Leader sports editor

First impressions, they say, are lasting ones.
And as first impressions go, Hannah Pastor made a pretty good one when she captured the 400-meter title at the 3A track meet as a sophomore, setting a 3A record in the process.

Before that, as a second-grader in the Abundant Life schools, she made an immediate splash when she outran elementary school boys, and then again as a seventh-grader, when she posted a 100-meter time of just over 12 seconds.

“We started track (at Abundant Life) when she was in seventh grade because of her,” said her junior high coach Tim Ballard.

But Pastor’s last impressions will likely be the ones that future Lady Owls will admire. It has, quite simply, been a final semester to remember for Pastor, the All-State basketball player and now six-time track champion.

After helping lead the Lady Owls to their first-ever state basketball tournament appearance in March, Pastor earned MVP honors at the All-Metro Classic, beating out the best of all the higher classifications from around central Arkansas.

Yet, that was just the beginning of Pastor’s spectacular spring. On Wednesday afternoon at Genoa High School, Pastor added to her track hardware by winning four events at the 2A track meet, missing out on a fifth title by one-hundredth of a second.

“It was incredible,” said first-year Abundant Life track coach Jared Selby. “It wasn’t until I was on the road coming home that I was like, ‘four in one night.’”

For Pastor, an ultra-competitive athlete who still holds the 3A triple jump record, the four wins came as only a mild surprise to her.

“I really wanted to win three,” she said. “That was my goal coming in, to win at least three. Because I won one my sophomore year and one my junior year so I had to do something different. I figured if I got one more, that was a bonus.”

Not only did Pastor bring home four firsts, she set a state record for the third state spring, this time eclipsing the 2A triple jump mark with a leap of 34 feet, 6.5 inches. Pastor won by more than a foot and won the long jump by five inches with a leap of 17-1.

Pastor went on to win the 200 by more than a second with a time of 26.13.

Pastor ran neck-and-neck with Riverside’s Rebekah Frayer in the 100. Her hand and shoulder actually crossed the finish line ahead of Frayer’s, but both shoulders have to be across, and Pastor’s time of 13.00 was a mere one-hundredth of a second slower than Frayer’s.

“I was disappointed,” Pastor admitted. “I wanted to win it because I’m very competitive. But at the same time, it gave me more fuel to win the 400. I thought, ‘Okay, I have to get this now.’”

That competitiveness, by the way, is the result of a big brother who used to chide Pastor as a youngster. He told her she couldn’t do the things he did because she was a girl. She admits with a laugh that because of that, she’s “always wanted to prove boys wrong.”

Having already made 12 leaps (including the prelims in the triple and the long jumps), hurled the discus six times (she finished fourth) and run in two sprints, Pastor was exhausted going into the 400. But her fiery nature served her well, as she not only won that final event, but did so by a second-and-a-half and set a personal best of 59.80. It was the first sub-minute 400 she’d ever run.

Pressed to identify the greatest athletic thrill from her final year at Abundant Life, Pastor said it’s hard to pick one.

“It’s been crazy and it’s all kind of overwhelming,” she said. “I wanted to play in the Metro game, but I never dreamt I’d get the MVP. I never thought I’d end up in the All-Star game (in Fayetteville) this summer. I guess the thing that stands out is just the experience.”

Pastor scored 22 points in the All-Metro Classic after averaging 22 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Lady Owls.

Pastor is saying goodbye not only to high school athletics, but to athletics in general, preferring instead to focus on her studies. Her plans are to go to junior college in Oklahoma City and finish up at the University of Oklahoma, probably in the medical field and possibly in radiology. She’ll continue to play intramural sports, she said.

“Sports can become your whole life in college,” she said. “You don’t really have a life and I don’t want that. I am going to miss it. But I’ll channel my competitiveness into everything else I do, like my school work, my job and my life.”

Her feats are helping to turn the Abundant Life track program into a force to be reckoned with. Her 53 points on Wednesday allowed the Lady Owls to finish third overall. A team title may not be that far off, Selby said.

“What she has done is very much going to help our program,” he said. “She’s the kind of athlete you don’t have to tell what to do. She’s already driven to do things. Lots of kids look up to her. She’s the reason we had so many numbers in junior high this year.”

The junior high girls won the conference championship, while the boys took second.

As for the fiery, but modest Pastor, she said she would continue to apply sports’ lessons to her life after high school.

“I don’t like to let my competitiveness show because I don’t want to come off that way to other people,” she said. “But I can’t help it. I compete in everything I do. I know it’s just a game, but I’m just a passionate person and I love the Lord, so it just gives me something to strive for.

“Sports has made me a lot into the person I am.”