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Sarah Hamon reflects on Bulgaria, time spent with Team USA

Sarah Hamon, center, poses with fellow Team USA runners on a mountain in Bulgaria.

Sarah Hamon, center, poses with fellow Team USA runners on a mountain in Bulgaria.

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UNC Wilmington’s Sarah Hamon finished 34th with a time of 27 minutes in the Junior World Mountain Running Championship on Sunday, Sept. 11 in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria, as a representative of Team USA. The American team ranked eighth overall.

Two days before the race, Hamon and her teammates were able to walk – or, rather, hike – the 2.2-mile course. She made a mental note to start the race as her coach, Layne Schwier, had said – conservatively. 

“I executed my strategy perfectly,” she said. “I went out conservative, near the back of the pack, and slowly progressed the entire way. No one passed me. Once the race settled, I only moved up.

“I’m very satisfied with my performance. I may not have won the race, but I don’t think I could’ve run a better race than I did that given day,” Hamon said. She was a scoring runner by finishing third on her team.

“I thought Sarah did quite well considering her background. We are happy she got the chance to do it,” said Schwier.

During the race, Hamon came up with mantras for each third part of the race to keep her motivated. 

“This focus kept me from feeling sorry for myself or wanting to give up mid-race. I think mentally it may have been the best race of my career,” said Hamon.

Those mantras got her to the end, but when her feet hit the finish line, she collapsed. 

“It was the hardest and most painful race I have ever run.”

For Hamon, it was still an experience like no other.

“Spending a week with such talented athletes from all over the world was unbelievably refreshing and motivating,” Hamon said.

She also received high praise from the coaches and senior members of Team USA, who saw she had a promising future ahead. 

“They were all convinced that if I stuck with this for however long it takes, that I could go to the Olympics or be a professional athlete,” Hamon said.

While in Bulgaria, she was able to explore Sapareva Banya, take a hike to the summit of Rila Mountains and try new foods, but said she is glad to be home and eating at her favorite sushi place again.

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Sarah Hamon reflects on Bulgaria, time spent with Team USA