Connect with us

Track and Field

MONUMENTAL LEAP: Union/A-C Valley Senior Hannah Ithen Breaks School Record in Long Jump, Turns in Her Career-best By Two Feet

FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Hannah Ithen told volunteer coach Dave Sherman what she had just done.

He scoffed. No way, he said.

He later returned to apologize.

Didn’t need to. Not really. It was understandable to doubt what Ithen, a senior on the Union/A-C Valley girls track and field team, had told him about her accomplished in the long jump on a warm Tuesday afternoon at North Clarion.

(Pictured above, Union/A-C Valley senior Hannah Ithen does a warm-up jump before setting the school record in the long jump at 18 feet, 10 1/2 inches on Tuesday afternoon at North Clarion/photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photopgraphy)

Last year she joined the team for the first time and was brimming with jumping talent, hitting 16 feet, 10 inches toward the end of the campaign.

Still, nothing foretold of the leap she made in just the second meet of her second season.

Ithen touched down in the sand at 18-10½, breaking the school record of 18-6¾ that was set by Baylee Blauser at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in 2022. Blauser won the state title with that mark.

“It was incredible,” Ithen said. “I’m still kind of in shock. We all were in shock.”

When the distance was announced, jaws dropped. Eyes bulged. Disbelief reined. 

Coaches Stacey Fox and Shanna Tharan were equally surprised, but delightfully so.

“We all just kind of stopped and stared at each other like, ‘What just happened?’” Ithen said, laughing. “I told Dave Sherman about it, and he thought I was lying. He didn’t believe me. He went over and talked to Shanna, and then he came over to me and gave me a hug and said he was sorry because he genuinely thought I was lying.”

Blauser was the first who saw Ithen’s talent for jumping while the two were in gym class together at A-C Valley. She hounded Ithen to try it and she finally talked her into joining the team before the 2023 season.

Blauser, now a sophomore on the Slippery Rock University women’s track and field team, was the first person Ithen called about her feat.

“She was so excited,” Ithen said. “Everyone was. Hayden Smith came running up to me and gave me a hug and told me how proud he was of me and how awesome it was.”

Tharan said she wasn’t completely shocked that Ithen broke the record. She just didn’t think it would happen so soon.

Like Blauser, Tharan saw Ithen’s untapped potential in the long jump.

“I told her at the beginning of the season that if she wants it, she has to work for it,” Tharan said. “(I told her) I believed she could do it, and she had to believe in herself to do it. And she did.”

Ithen said she knew when she landed she had just turned in the best jump of her career.

She was thinking something in the 17s. Certainly not 18-10½.

“I was expecting a (personal record) out of it, but not anywhere near what it was,” Ithen said. “It shocked me.”

Ithen has been working tirelessly to hone her mechanics.

One thing that held her back last year was her inability to tuck both legs.

On her record-setting leap, it finally clicked.

“I remember on that jump thinking, ‘Wow, I actually got both my legs up,’” Ithen said.

Ithen’s goal this season was to reach 17 feet and make it to the state meet.

Last year, she attended the PIAA Track and Field Championships as a spectator, watching teammates Evie Bliss, Smith and Landon Chalmers win gold medals.

That motivated her to follow in their footsteps this season.

“I’m a really competitive person,” Ithen said. “I was so proud of them all, but it drove me crazy that I didn’t get to go out there and compete. I said to myself, ‘Next year, I’m not coming here just to watch. I’m competing, no matter what I have to do.’”

Ithen is accustomed to being on the big stage.

As a member of Union/A-C Valley’s competitive spirit team, she helped the Falcon Knights win a District 9 title this winter and fare well at the state competition.

The tumbling and stunts of competitive cheer also helps her in the long jump, she said.

“It definitely helps with flexibility and muscle memory,” Ithen said. “When you learn a new skill in tumbling, in your mind you know how to do it every time. You know how to do it the same way. This jump was the first time I was able to do it right, so now hopefully my brain will click, ‘This is how you do it.’”

That is the challenge for Ithen — recreating her monumental leap.

“I’d say there’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Ithen said. “If anything, it makes me want to work harder because I know I can jump that far. So now I want to consistently jump that far instead of settling for the 16s and 17s.”


Ithen wasn’t the only record-breaker for Union/A-C Valley in what was a big afternoon individually.

Ithen’s performance helped soften the blow of a 100-49 loss to North Clarion, who got multiple wins from Brenna Armstrong (shot put and discus) and Gia Babington (400 and 800).

She also won the triple jump (34-1½).

Dani Farkas won the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles with district qualifying times.

The boys snapped two records.

Hayden Smith jumped 21-1¾ in the long jump to break his own school mark. He also cleared 6-4 in the high jump, but North Clarion edged Union/A-C Valley, 75-74.

Logan Skibinski also set a school record in the 100, finishing in 11 seconds.