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Chugiak's Hannah Shaha named Gatorade Alaska Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year

Jan. 23—After leading the Chugiak High girls cross-country team to a third straight title at the Division I Alaska state championship this past fall, sophomore Hannah Shaha became the second athlete in program history to be named Gatorade Alaska Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year on Monday.

"It feels really good and I'm really excited about it," she said. "It just goes to show how much my coaches, parents and teachers have pushed me to take as many opportunities as I can and be the best all-around person I can be."

The motto of the Mustangs' coaching staff is "We want to make you good people and not just good athletes" and Shaha believes that her receiving this honor is a personification of what it truly means.

Her coach was the first person to text her about the announcement but she didn't see the message until after her dad had called and told her to look at it.

"That was really cool to get that call from my dad telling me that I had won," Shaha said.

Shaha wasn't even on varsity as a freshman due to the Mustangs already incredible depth headlined by 2022-2023 Gatorade Athlete of the Year Campbell Peterson. Her main goal heading into her sophomore season was just getting her times down.

"I didn't even really think about coming into the season," Shaha. "Towards the end of the season, my coach reached out and asked 'Do you want to fill out this application?' and now it's just an added bonus to a really amazing season."

The award acknowledges a student-athlete for their exemplary academic achievement and exceptional character displayed on and off the trails in addition to their outstanding athletic achievements.

Shaha has donated her time to multiple community service initiatives through her church and has volunteered locally promoting recycling and caring for the environment.

"After high school and college, athletics is really hard to stay in but you can always find volunteer opportunities in the community," she said. "I think always finding ways to service means a lot to the community and it is so fun to be able to help in different ways."

She has also maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a violinist in the Chugiak Symphonic Orchestra.

"I've always tried to maintain a good GPA and I think it's super important for getting into good colleges eventually," Shaha said. "It shows the effort and determination to do well in classes and that definitely transfers over to sports."

The 5-foot-8 sophomore won the Division I state championship meet this past fall with a time of 19:19.82, which was nearly seven seconds ahead of the next-closest finisher, her teammate Alliyah Fields. Shaha's resume also includes winning the Cook Inlet Conference Region IV championship meet and placing 14th at the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Championships Open Division.

"The progress that Hannah made between her freshman and sophomore seasons was both surprising and impressive," Chugiak head coach Brian Kruchoski said in a statement. "From not being a part of the varsity team in 2022 to becoming the state champion in 2023, she surprised even herself with her amazing progress and success."

[Chugiak girls, South boys and Palmer's Fischer Adams take state cross country titles]

With the departure of Peterson last spring, Shaha and the rest of the Mustangs had big shoes to fill and an extremely high standard to maintain. Not only did she not feel any additional pressure or nervousness, she felt the exact opposite.

"I was just so excited to be able to be on the varsity team," Shaha said. "We all run so tight so we go back and forth. It could be anybody's day because all the other girls on varsity are such amazing athletes and students."