ELEVATING HER GAME: Hanover College’s highly decorated track and field athlete, Savannah Hubbard, makes her approach run in the long jump at a meet held on campus this spring. Hubbard has been named honorary starter of the 39th annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K on July 1. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
ELEVATING HER GAME: Hanover College’s highly decorated track and field athlete, Savannah Hubbard, makes her approach run in the long jump at a meet held on campus this spring. Hubbard has been named honorary starter of the 39th annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K on July 1. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
Savannah Hubbard graduated from Southwestern in 2013 as one of the more versatile high school athletes by playing volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring.

And while her matriculation to nearby Hanover College ended her playing days in volleyball and basketball, she gave up none of that versatility by quickly becoming one of Hanover all-time greats in track and field with six schools records, conference championships in both the long jump and javelin and top 20 national rankings in the demanding indoor pentathlon (15th) and outdoor heptathlon (19th).

It’s that kind of determination, skill and competitive drive that made the recent Hanover graduate the perfect candidate to serve as this year’s honorary starter of the 39th annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Run/Walk on Saturday of Madison Regatta Weekend.

“It’s been awesome,” Hubbard said of her college career. “It’s been better than I ever expected. It’s been a pretty cool experience. I’ve met a lot of nice people and made a lot of friends and had a great time.”

Hubbard said she left Southwestern for Hanover just hoping to get a shot at competing as the team’s long jumper but the opportunity to tackle new challenges — especially the pentathlon and heptathlon — just kept expanding her role with the Panthers. Next thing she knew she was high jumping, hurdling, sprinting and throwing the shot put and javelin in a four-year track and field career in which she became the first Hanover athlete to qualify for the national championships in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

“I never thought I would accomplish so much in so many different events. I thought I’d go to college and maybe long jump but I had a lot of support and coaching from (former Hanover coach) Josh Payne to (current coach) Brian Power,” she said.

“It takes an army to do it,” Hubbard continued. “I spent the whole summer in the weight room. I had coaches instructing me on weight training and technique and the support of my teammates and family. I don’t think my mom missed one single meet in my entire career.”

But what the “army” couldn’t do is provide the competitive fire that drove Hubbard to succeed where others often fail and to battle through the ups and downs of such a grueling schedule while still earning a spot on the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference all-academic team twice.

“I was always competitive but I just grew more and more competitive the older I got,” she said. “My parents were always behind me saying “you should push to be better because you can do it.”

Hubbard, a former 4-Her who was just as competitive when it came to showing the family’s pig at the county and state fairs, said in the back of her mind was not just winning and setting records but doing so in a way that made her, her school, coaches, teammates and family proud of that effort.

She said that’s something she thinks she has in common with many of the former Courier 10K starters before her. Although she has never run the 10K, she has followed the event with great interest and respect for the honorary starters because many of them were he role models as a young athlete.

“It’s an honor. I’ve always looked up to the 10K starters,” Hubbard said. “I can remember Chelsea Stephen when she was the starter and some of the older people that I respected and considered role models. I looked up to them. Being a starter of the 10K is being a role model for the community and I’ve always wanted to do things like that and be a role model for other athletes.”

“The committee thinks that Savannah is a great starter. Her success is the culmination of hard work, determination, and dedication to excellence,” Madison Courier publisher Curt Jacobs said. “She is a great inspiration to local athletes, young, and not so young that you achieve a high level of athletic success right here in our local community. We are honored to have her as our starter.”

Having graduated Hanover and with her college track and field career over, Hubbard will soon head off to Indiana University where she will attend classes another four years as a optometry major with her sights set on a career as an eye doctor.

Although no longer eligible in track and field, Hubbard won’t rule out branching out into another sport and with her versatility one would be a fool to doubt her ability to pull that off.

“I’ve got to figure out what I want to do as an athlete,” she said, noting that sports is just too big a part of her life to walk away now. “I’ll be studying optometry at IU for four more years and while I’ve used up my eligibility in track and field there are maybe other things. I love lifting weights and running and training.

“You never know what you might do,” Hubbard suggested. “I’ve kind of been thinking about bobsledding. It’s kind of an idea I’ve been considering or maybe I’ll just be a retired athlete but even then I still want to do something. I might try some 10Ks or 5Ks or maybe a half triathlon or maybe the sprint triathlon would be more my speed.”



Registration for the 39th Annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Walk/Run, an official Madison Regatta event, is now available.

The event is Saturday, July 1 and the run and walk both in begin at 8:15 a.m. The walk costs $10 if application is received by June 24 or $15 thereafter. The run costs $20 by June 24 and $25 thereafter. Both prices include a T-shirt and a race info packet.

Custom awards are presented in all run divisions as well as the top male and female runners.

Entry forms are available at The Madison Courier, 310 West St., or by visiting www.madisoncourier.com.