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Girls athlete of the year: Jordan Hasay to run at Oregon

Jordan Hasay has never had a major haircut. "Just trims," said the 17-year-old distance runner from Mission College Prep in San Luis Obispo, Calif. "It's kind of my trademark."

So is winning. Last week Hasay won her third straight national juniors title in the 1,500 with a time of 4:18.99. The 5-foot-4 prodigy is SI.com's girls athlete of the year.

When Hasay first enrolled at the small seaside school four years ago, she would jackrabbit out in front of the pack and "attempt to annihilate the competition." At the Stanford Invitational during her first cross country season, she sprinted to a 5:01 opening mile, but collapsed from exhaustion afterward. "I would heave a sigh and shake my head when she would go out so fast," said Dr. Armando Siqueiros, who has coached and mentored Hasay throughout her track career. "Onlookers would encourage it, but she had so much to learn."

Patience was a difficult lesson to teach her. When Hasay was in the fifth grade, her father, Joe, an aerospace engineer, took her to a nearby beach to go for a run. After a short distance, Joe tried to temper her speed by slowing to a speed walk. Unwilling to wait any longer, she asked permission to run ahead. "She's never really had a training partner," Joe Hasay said.

It did not take long to prove she was peerless on the national scene. As she rode in a van up to the University of Oregon's Hayward Field for the Junior Olympics in 2004, Hasay, who had only run on 200-meter dirt tracks at home, craned her neck up at the stands and told her parents, "There's no way I can race in front of all these people." But once on the track, she needed just 4:34.02 to claim her first of three junior national titles in the 1,500.

Though she failed to finish her first cross-country race as a freshman, she became only the second freshman to claim the Foot Locker national title with a time of 17:05. This year she became the first Californian to win four straight 3,200 titles. This fall, she will head off to Oregon as the highest-profile female track recruit in the country. In the classroom, Hasay has been just as effective. She was class valedictorian and her graduation can be seen on YouTube.

When Hasay was in the eighth grade, she told Mission College coach Leslie Monaco that she wanted to run in the Olympics, a goal that became more realistic when she advanced to the finals of the women's 1,500 at last year's U.S. Olympic Trials. The London Games in 2012 are a real possibility. Said Siqueiros: "She can be as good as any American we've seen."

Last July, Siquerios advised Hasay to paint her long blond hair red, white and blue before running the 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Hasay refused. During the semifinals, sitting in eighth place with 300 meters to go, she passed one runner, then another. By the end of race, she finished fifth in her heat and set the national prep record of 4:14:50. "She's going to have to cut the hair in the long run," Siqueiros said. "It'll make things easier in the heat."

MORE COVERAGE:

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