Marquette Cross-Country: Hanson and Courtney similar, different in new eras

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The family ties to Marquette cross-country are strong for freshman Molly Hanson, as her sister, Michaela Courtney, is Marquette’s last All-American in track and field and holds several school records.

Hanson arrived at Marquette in August and is already making a name for herself as the team’s top finisher at the National Catholic Championship.

She also took second place on the team at the NIU Huskie Open to start off the season. Coming off a state title for Dodgeville High School, she has been well prepared for the transition to college after years of training under her father.

The interest level in Hanson increased and recruitment heated up between Marquette and Wisconsin-Madison after she won the individual championship as a senior in high school.

Courtney’s positive experience with the Golden Eagles played a role in Hanson’s decision to attend Marquette, but the culture of the team was one of the largest deciding factors.

“When my sister ran here, she said she had the best experience ever,” Hanson said. “I looked at Wisconsin, but I liked how the team here seemed closer and the school was smaller. It wasn’t as overwhelming as Madison.”

Her father ran for Wisconsin-La Crosse, while her mother competed for the Badgers in Madison. But it was Hanson who decided to reach out to Marquette during her recruiting process.

“(Hanson) contacted us and I had already known about her as a good runner,” coach Mike Nelson said. “As the season progressed, she just got better when the races got more important. Molly is also academically inclined and she wants to be a true student-athlete. With all those things, Marquette was a good fit.”

Since graduating, Courtney has been working in Washington, D.C. as a brand ambassador for Asics and considers herself more of a recreational than a competitive runner.

Hanson admits to enjoying indoor and outdoor track more than running cross-country. But Nelson is a firm believer that a strong season in any sport will have a positive effect on the other.

“The faster that (Hanson) can run a 6K in cross-country, the more aerobic strength she’ll develop and the faster she’ll be in the 1,500 or the 800 on the track,” Nelson said. “She definitely has a lot of speed to her advantage in both cross-country and track.”

Hanson could end up running a lot of the same events that her sister ran, but she may also run more 800- or 1,000-meter races during indoor season. There will be plenty of opportunities for her to write her own legacy.

“We talk a lot about running and college in general,” Courtney said. “She has a good head on her shoulders and takes one day off a week. I think it can be tough during that transition to college to not overdo (the training), but she’s been consistent and not obsessive with mileage.”

Courtney ran most of her career against Conference USA competition, and now Hanson will be facing some of the same teams in the Big East.

Times have changed and will continue to change as Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will exit the Big East while Hanson is at Marquette.

Scoring opportunities may open up, but new teams like Southern Methodist and Memphis will be just as hungry for those points.

Hanson has made it a personal goal to run under 18 minutes in the 5,000-meter  run. That would be the start to what Courtney could see being an All-American career at the end of Hanson’s time at Marquette.

“I certainly think (she) is a national caliber athlete,” Courtney said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she was an All-American. She’s definitely capable of it.”

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