When Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi decided she wanted to visit Stanford University as a potential college, she wanted the full experience.
“At the time I thought, if I end up going here, my parents won’t be here,” she said. “I had to see what it was like being that far away from home without my mom just like a text away kind of thing.”
But the nearly 3,000 mile trek alone from Westport to Palo Alto, California on a mid-October weekend turned out to be the best thing ever for DeBalsi.
“It was just the feeling I got when I was there,” DeBalsi said. “It felt like I was home. I’m very excited.”
DeBalsi, who is a two-time All-American cross country runner and owns four state individual track and field records, verbally committed to run for Stanford next year on Tuesday evening.
She explained she was driven toward Stanford because of the competitive nature in the sport of distance running and the academic field.
“I connected to the team well, the campus culture in general,” DeBalsi said.
DeBalsi is the third straight runner from Connecticut and the FCIAC Conference to commit to Stanford – Darien’s Alex Ostberg (2015) and Claire Howlett of Westhill (2014).
“It’s definitely helpful because I knew two people I could ask questions, and they were also looking at schools I was looking at,” DeBalsi said.
DeBalsi also took officials to Princeton and Harvard.
She explained she’s definitely interested in the math and science area for potential majors.
One not to follow the conventional path, DeBalsi, with her witty, quirky and genuine persona, spent this past summer balancing the running and academic life.
She interned at Yale University in New Haven with researchers dedicated to fighting cancer and had a solid summer of training.
She heads into the FCIAC Cross Country Championships on Wednesday (Waveny Park, New Canaan) with a chance to become the third runner ever to win three straight conference cross country titles.
She’s currently ranked No. 3 in the nation, according to the latest DyeStat.com rankings.
“I feel like I’m in pretty good shape right now,” she said. “I’m excited not only individually but we have a good chance to win as a team.”
DeBalsi has already staked a name for herself as one of the best female runners in Connecticut history.
On the cross country trails, she owns the top five times at Wickham Park (from 2008 on, when course was altered). Her fastest time on the challenging 5,000-meter course is 17:41, established in 2013 at the Class LL state meet.
DeBalsi hasn’t lost an in-state cross country race since her sophomore season and is the two-time defending Gatorade Connecticut Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
On the track, she became the first female runner in state history to break 10 minutes in the 2 mile, when she finished second at the Brooks PR Invite in Seattle in 2014, running 9:55.05.
In 2013, she won the New Balance National Outdoor 2 mile title (10:09.08).
She also holds the state indoor and outdoor 2 mile and 3,200 records, and since her freshman season, has only lost three 3,200 meter races during the outdoor season in Connecticut.