Running in the family


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Passion, goal-orientated, stubborn. These are three words that can be associated with the brother and sister cross-country runners Kelsey and Michael Hart.

Those three traits led the West Branch natives to become runners for the Hawkeye cross-country teams. Their mother, Jacqui Hart, the two began racing when each was about 5.

Why did they get started with cross-country? They “just had the bodies for it,” Kelsey said.

As the pair has gotten older — Kelsey is now a senior Michael a freshman —they have also become a lot closer, becoming a good support system for each other. Cross-country was a huge factor in this bond.

Originally set on playing football, Michael credits Kelsey for getting him involved with distance running. Watching Kelsey compete in high school, state, and nationals inspired Michael to become a harrier himself.

“Through high school I saw what she was doing and I wanted to be just like her,” Michael said. “Following her got me closer to cross-country and Kelsey.”

Kelsey has had a huge role in Michael’s running career beyond inspiration. She has been a source of advice and the two talk a lot about strategies, their mother said.

“Kelsey has been a huge help with Michael,” Jacqui Hart said. “When he gets hurt, she talks him through.”

Kelsey has had her fair share of dealing with injuries, as well, including a stress fracture in her upper femur which led to her missing the entire 2012 indoor track season. Through her experiences she’s been able to help Michael as he comes back from a hernia surgery.

For the younger brother, it’s been a while since he’s run healthy. In the past, Michael has made his injuries worse by not allowing himself time to heal.

“He has a lot of time left, pushing himself, right now, isn’t beneficial,” Kelsey said. “He’s just going to hurt himself more.”

For Jacqui Hart, it is most enjoyable to see her children succeed. This year, though, she said it’s harder to enjoy watching because Michael’s rehabilitation from surgery.

“The hardest part is watching them deal with injuries and not be able to do the things they want to do,” she said.

Now in her senior season, Kelsey has successfully established herself as a strong competitor. In 2011, she won the Iowa Invitational and was a top finisher in at the Iowa Open. Michael was the district champion in the 1,600-meter at West Branch high school in 2011 and qualified for the state championships in the 4x400-meter relay and 800-meter races as well.

The Harts’ mother said the reason they have been successful in their cross-country careers is due to their competitive natures and goal-orientation.

Kelsey and Michael share similar talents when it comes to running. The pair said that the other’s stubbornness is a reason for their success.

“He can be stubborn, I think that’s something all runners need to be successful,” she said. “Mentally, when he is racing, he doesn’t want someone else to beat him.”

For the freshman runner, it’s competing against certain people that he can’t stand losing to.

“I don’t like giving up on myself or the people who watch me run,” he said. “If there is someone I need to beat, I make sure it takes a lot for him to get me.”

Michael said it’s a similar drive that makes Kelsey a good runner.

“You can see it when she runs it means a lot to her,” he said. “She isn’t one to give up. She has the same stubbornness as me, sometimes more than me.”

The pair has been beneficial to each other but another pair has as well. Their parents, Doug and Jacqui Hart, travel all over the Midwest to watch every competition.

“They are some of the best parents a runner could have,” Michael said. “They do everything in their power to make sure we have everything we need.”

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