Hannah Waller is The Fresno Bee's 2016 Track and Field Athlete of the Year
Carlmont High School is in Belmont, 25 miles south of San Francisco, and it was here that one Annette Coleman could run and jump like no girl in the region in track and field in the late 1980s.
She long-jumped more than 20 feet, navigated 200 meters in 24 seconds and clipped the 100 in 11.66.
She was a state star then.
She would be a star now.
Most important to the sport’s fraternity between Chowchilla and Bakersfield – the Central Section – she would deliver one Hannah Marie Waller about 10 years later.
Further, Mom passed on a baton of genetic brilliance.
Her daughter is The Fresno Bee’s repeat Athlete of the Year in girls track and field, having closed a four-year career at Buchanan as a seven-time state medalist, an 11-time section Masters gold medalist (six individual, five relays), a section record-holder in the 200 and 400, and signed to NCAA power Oregon on full scholarship. USC placed second in the national chase.
Waller’s career is indisputably one of the finest in the history of a section long established for its excellence in the sport.
Similarly, Mom remains a legend in the Central Coast Section. Only she didn’t share her accomplishments with Hannah until she was nearly a teen and a blossoming sprinter in Fresno County.
I didn’t want to be one of those parents who got so involved I was living my dream through her. I wanted Hannah to like track; I didn’t want to force it on her. I wanted her to like it without any of my influence.
Annette Coleman, mother of Hannah Waller
Why? “Because I didn’t want to be one of those parents who got so involved I was living my dream through her. I wanted Hannah to like track; I didn’t want to force it on her. I wanted her to like it without any of my influence.”
Like it? Was there truly ever a concern?
As a 2-year-old in day care, daughter would routinely run laps indoors while others played with toys, of course, because that’s what you do, right?
“You know how most kids take their first steps?” Mom says. “Hannah ran into a walk. I have it on video.”
And she would have a lot more to record for a daughter innately drawn to bright lights.
“In elementary school,” Mom says, “she told me she wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.”
Hannah wasn’t joking.
Meet that mattered
Waller, when not dusting age-group competition in track and field, actually experienced a couple of years of cheerleading competition before high school while attending the Central Unified District.
And Mom, while not forcing her out of a skirt and into spikes – yet admittedly calculating while determined to keep her daughter’s running excitement “brewing” – played a card that would win a bonanza pot: attend together the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Specifically, it was in that meet’s finals on June 5, 2010, that Waller, having just completed sixth grade, was overwhelmed after seeing Clovis High sprinter/horizontal jumper Jenna Prandini and St. Elizabeth-Oakland sprinter Ashton Purvis in a national-class duel.
2 Central Section records (200, 23.64 and 400, 53.01) for Waller
“It was over,” Mom recounts, meaning, actually, it was only the beginning for Hannah. “She woke up the next morning and says, ‘Mommy, I love track and field.’ She was really excited; it was a very energizing, special meet that you could feel in the stands.”
Daughter doesn’t deny: “ ‘Wow,’ I’m thinking, ‘this is the real thing.’ When I saw that, I thought this is a zoom into the future for me, and it really was. I was growing up and starting to realize this is becoming my life. The atmosphere at Veterans Memorial Stadium was unbelievable.”
It would become her home track after Mom moved the family into the Buchanan attendance area before she began high school.
“I’ve given her all the tools I can give,” Mom says, “but it’s taken a village – the community support in Clovis Unified, Coach (Brian) Weaver and his staff – to make Hannah who she is.”
Medals and more
The merit of Waller’s accomplishments go far beyond her treasure chest. That haul features a state gold in the 400 as a junior; second and third in the nation’s finest track and field meet earlier this month in the 400 and 200; section records in those events (53.01, 400; 23.64, 200) and, most memorable to her, four consecutive 400 section Masters titles.
Only Bakersfield’s Janice Nichols (1989-92) and Stockdale’s Keisha Gaines (2000-03) have matched the 400 quad gold since the one-lapper began on the section level 45 years ago, according to section track and field historian Ron Blackwood.
“That’s my (prep career) favorite,” Waller says, “because I did something not a lot have done.”
The 53.01 ranks seventh nationally and qualified her for the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships from June 24-26 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Place in the top two among 16 entrants in the 400 in that one and Waller will represent the USA in the IAAF World U20 Championships in Athletics in Bydgoszcz, Poland, from July 19-24.
“I’m definitely planning on making the team, without a doubt, as healthy and strong as I’m feeling right now,” says Waller, who turns 18 Wednesday.
Strong? This is a girl who bench presses 185 pounds.
“That’s incredibly strong for a person of her size,” Weaver says. “That’s college weight. She puts a lot of force on the ground for a long period of time with the power she has.”
It isn’t all about brawn for a girl with a lovely touch in crochet. “She makes beautiful scarfs,” Mom says.
6 Section combined record of 200 and 400 Masters titles for Waller
Only Waller has won a combined six 200 and 400 Masters titles in section history.
That has required an unusual blend of strength, endurance and speed in a sport that typically has athletes double in the 100 and 200; 1,600 and 3,200; long and triple jumps; high jump and pole vault; 100 and 300 hurdles; and shot put and discus.
It was in that day care home 16 years ago that Waller was nicknamed “Bubbles,” reflecting a personality of joy and flair.
And, for all of her impact for teams that won three section titles and a runner-up, that’s what Weaver will cherish most.
“I’ll remember the amazing spirit she had,” he says. “Hannah’s a very energetic, happy person. There was never a dark cloud, there was always a silver lining; her outlook was always positive. Even if things didn’t go her way, it was, ‘I will get better.’ And that carried over to everyone. Ten years from now, I’ll remember the person who was so enthusiastic about every single thing she did.”
Outstanding Girls Track Event Performer: Zoe March
She’s qualified because: Her story may have no rival in the 45-year history of girls track and field in the Central Section. It’s not that she won the section Masters 300 low hurdles in 43.33 and placed second in the 400 at 56.32. And it’s not that she placed third in the 300 hurdles at 42.23 – No. 3 all-time in section history – at the CIF State Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium. No, the improbable hook to her story is that she did this in her first track competition as a prep. Further, in the 300 hurdles, she did so in a demanding, technical event. Only Liberty-Bakersfield’s Morganne Hill (41.47, 2015) and Clovis West’s Alyssa Monteverde (41.90, 2011) have run faster in section annals. March, The Fresno Bee’s Small Schools Player of the Year in girls basketball last season as a point guard after leading the Eagles to a fourth straight section title, will play basketball at Azusa Pacific. But she says the idea of also running track at the private college near Los Angeles is being discussed.
She said it: “In my head, I’m thinking I need to get in the college situation first and see what I can do. If the Lord provides me a way to do track, I’ll do it. The Lord has been so faithful, providing me with this opportunity. It’s been an amazing experience.” – March.
Outstanding Girls Field Event Performer: Rhesa Foster
School: Clovis North
She’s qualified because: Despite two major career setbacks in track and field – a knee blowout that wiped out her junior season and a hamstring strain that greatly impacted this season – she leaves for Oregon as a state champion, national season leader and Central Section record-holder in the long jump (20-7.5) and ranked all-time in the section in the 100 high hurdles (No. 3, 14.06), 100 (No. 6, 11.84) and 200 (No. 15, 24.49). She beat the section 45-year long jump record of Riverdale’s Daralee Roberts (20-7) on her fifth of six jumps at the CIF State Championships after fouling on two of her first three. That also elevated her atop the nation’s season list. Foster won the section Masters in the long jump as a freshman and sophomore, also placing third in the state as a freshman.
Girls Track and Field Rookie
of the Year: Jocelynn Budwig
She’s qualified because: She won the section Masters, placed sixth in the state and finished as the nation’s top freshman in the discus at 151-3. That’s a school record, No. 4 all-time as a freshman in the section and No. 15 all-time overall in the section. She made the CIF State Championships medal stand (top six) at 144-3 on her first throw. She’s the first state girls medalist in Fowler history and the first for either gender since older brother Jacob scored bronze in the discus in 2010. They are among six family members to medal in the state meet.
of the Year: Brian Weaver
He’s qualified because: It’s more than numbers, even with those numbers growing progressively dominant in a 22-year Bears career – seven Central Section team titles in both boys and girls, including sweeps in four of the past five years (this season one of them), and 13 boys crowns and 11 girls in the Tri-River Athletic Conference. The Bears boys tied for fifth and girls for sixth in team standings of the CIF State Championships. And to think, while the Buchanan program continues to strengthen in numbers (197 members this season) and results, Weaver for eight consecutive years has worn multiple hats while also directing the Masters and state meets at home.
He said it: “I’ve never won a section title; I’ve coached section titles. And I have nine assistants, and every one of those guys do everything. My enjoyment is just watching kids being excited. And I also enjoy all our kids who graduated and come back and volunteer their time. I had 20 of them work the state meet. I also had six or seven parents volunteer whose kids haven’t been here for 10 or 15 years. That’s my enjoyment, where people have enough respect for the program to pay back.” – Weaver
Girls Track and Field Pristine 13
- Yamilet Biggers, senior, Buchanan (100/200/relays)
- Sayda Taylor, freshman, Yosemite (100/200)
- Gabby Satterlee, senior, Central Valley Christian (800/1600/3200)
- Meagen Lowe, freshman, Buchanan (800/1600/3200)
- Lauren Moffett, senior, Clovis North (1600/3200)
- Alexis Vincent-Walker, sophomore, Clovis (high jump)
- Chinenye Agina, sophomore, Sanger (high jump)
- Brenae Wellington, senior, Buchanan (high jump/400 relay)
- Brooke Tjerrild, junior, Clovis North (pole vault)
- Shelby Noble, senior, Clovis West (pole vault)
- Remington Mahlum, senior, Buchanan (pole vault/triple jump)
- Addyson Smith, junior, Madera (shot put/discus)
- Christy Norris-Dow, senior, Exeter (shot put/discus)