Covid Comeback - Beach & Hazen Find Redemption

All Kansas athletes lost their spring track season, but the loss had different impacts on some. Seniors lost their final season, and juniors hoping to showcase their talents to continue competing in college lost that opportunity. But for some, even that loss weighed more heavily.   

Two such examples were Riley Beach and Tommy Hazen.

Riley Beach Winning EKL

Riley Beach

Riley Beach burst onto the scene as a promising freshman winning the 6A state cross-country meet. She followed that up in the spring running 10:55.71 for third at the state meet behind a pair of runners whose names dot the Kansas all-time list, future NCAA cross-country All-American Molly Born and UCLA's Sophie Scott. She added a 5:02.22 1600 at EKL and seemed well on her way to to a storied high school career.

It was a most auspicious beginning for the precocious freshman.

However, hit number one was a stress fracture that impacted her sophomore cross-country season. She ended up needing navicular surgery in January, 2019 and missing her sophomore track season.

She returned to light running in May that sophomore year, and gradually began to work her way back by the start of cross-country season.

Hit number two came in the form of a tibial stress fracture which ended her junior cross-country season after only a few meets.

After recovering from that, Beach began a slow, methodical plan back working towards her junior track season in the spring of 2020.

Then, the covid pandemic hit and Beach lost yet another season. Beach described her response to the cancellation as "shocked and upset" but finally "realized it gave me more time to train."

About that same time, new head coach Ian Frazier took over the reins of the Huskies. Now finally healthy and having a consistent block of training under her new head coach, it's clear used that Beach used the extra training time well as she's again emerged as one of the top girls in Kansas. She ran away with the highly competitive EKL title and posted an eye-popping 18:03.50 at the Gardner-Edgerton Invitational.

Heading into her final state cross-country meet, she was both determined and philosophical. "Where I am is where I should be, because that's where I'm at," said Beach.

"Where Beach was at" turned out to be a 2nd-place finish at the 6A State meet running 18:42, an outstanding time given the 30-35mph wind gusts.

Tommy Hazen en route to 5A State Meet 3rd-place finish

Tommy Hazen

Tommy Hazen spent the better part of his youth focused on baseball, never running track or cross country in elementary or middle school. He did summer running before his freshman year primarily to condition for soccer. However, he decided to opt for cross-country over soccer that fall and describes his freshman season as "okay, but not great."

Although he participated in winter running, Hazen still wasn't convinced it was the sport for him and opted for baseball in the spring of his freshman year.

He returned for his sophomore cross-country season with mixed results through most of the season. An injury hampered him at State, where he struggled to a disappointing 68th in 17:52.40. However, just two weeks later NXR Heartland, he dropped a PR 16:09.50. That was enough to convince him to put down his bat and glove and try his hand at the oval for the first time that spring.

Due to Johnson County Community College eliminating its track program and removing the track which had also served as the Aquinas home track, the first time Hazen ever set foot on a track was for his first meet his sophomore track season.

Hazen ripped off a 4:27.78 1600 literally the first time he ever ran on a track.

He was just getting warmed up, as he would go on to post 1600 and 3200 bests of 4:20.53 and 9:22.60, respectively. He seemed destined for the podium at the state meet in his first ever track season as a sophomore.

It was not to be.

On the last turn in the seventh lap of the 5A State 3200, Hazen suddenly pulled up and collapsed on the infield with a ruptured plantar fascia.

A long, slow four-month recovery followed, but Hazen would only get one meet as a sophomore before a stress fractured metatarsal ended his junior XC season.

Then, covid took his junior track season. Again healthy, Hazen, like Beach, is once again showing the promise of his early career. He posted a PR 15:41.20 and was 4th the always-tough EKL. Heading into his final state cross-country meet, Hazen said, "I'm healthy and training well and really looking forward to finding out what I can do," said Hazen.

Hazen sealed his comeback with a solid 3rd-place finish at the 5A state meet. He has since committed to K-State.