The chase is on between two sisters running for the Flagstaff Eagles.
Hana and Mia Hall have been blazing a path for an Eagles girls cross country crew that's looking for a fifth consecutive state title at the Division II level this season. Meanwhile, Hana is on the move for a repeat bid as the individual D-II state champion.
Mia's staying on her sister's heels, and the two are constantly pushing each other -- and their teammates -- to improve.
Coming off a first-place finish a week ago at the Ray Wherley 5,000-meter race, Mia finished second overall for the Eagles at Saturday's annual Four Corners meet at Buffalo Park, clocking an 18:30.9 for the 3-mile run. A familiar sight preceded her, as Hana ran an 18:15.3 for the victory, besting her 2018 time of 18:27.6 despite not feeling her best.
“I want to run a lot faster, but sometimes it's how you feel," Hana said. "I don’t feel that well, to be honest, a little achy, but I am happy today with what I ran.”
With Saturday's victory in the girls varsity race, Flagstaff improved to a 3-0 start to the season. Hana didn't run at Ray Wherley, and it didn't matter as her sister filled in as the leader of the pack. The sister act went 1-3 overall three weeks ago as the Flagstaff girls won the Peaks Invitational at Buffalo Park, with Hana leading the way in dominant fashion.
"They add this 1-2 punch up front that’s just incredible," Eagles head coach Trina Painters said Saturday of the Hall sisters. "Their racing, their training, their mindset is infectious to the rest of the team. When you have that caliber of athlete that has a tough mindset, it has a positive effect on everyone from the front to the back end. They set an interesting tone and bring a different flavor to the team because of the knowledge they get from their parents and different things.”
World-class elite runners Sara and Ryan Hall, who live and workout in Flagstaff, adopted sisters Hana, Mia, Jasmine and Lily from Ethiopia, adding the girls to their family in 2015.
The two sisters logged a lot of miles together in the summer. Now, the two spend a lot of time leading the field at races and their team during workouts.
And Mia is trying to catch up with her sister, figuratively and literally.
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“She makes me work harder," Mia said. "She’s always faster than I am, so I try to keep up with her and that makes me try harder.”
Hana said the two have a healthy competition with each other when it comes to running.
“It helps a lot training with another person, you push each other so much harder," the elder Hall said.
Mia has been a great fill-in for Brianna White, who is participating in a cultural exchange and language immersion program in Argentina this year after being Flagstaff's No. 2 team finisher at the 2018 state meet.
Painter has a challenge ahead for the two sisters and the rest of the cross country team: the Nike Desert Twilight race in Casa Grande on Friday.
It's been a while since the head coach last had her Eagles at the course known for its stout field and fast times.
“We are prepared to get beat up a little bit, but we are really excited to go and see some leg speed on that course," Painter said.
Hana's also looking forward to seeing how her sister and teammates continue to develop as they chase a state title.
“Our team is getting a lot stronger and I am excited for them and this season," she said.