Staples’ DeBalsi commits to Stanford
One of the best female distance runners the state has ever seen, Staples senior Hannah DeBalsi considered everything when it came to selecting a college.
A recent visit to the west coast confirmed her top choice was everything she hoped for, and more.
A day before rolling to her third straight FCIAC cross country title at Waveny Park in New Canaan on Wednesday, DeBalsi made her commitment to attend Stanford University when she graduates next summer.
“I kind of fell in love with (Stanford) when I went out there,” DeBalsi said. “In the back of mind once I went there, I knew I wanted to go there.
A 2-mile national champion and one of the top cross country runners in the nation, DeBalsi is another coup for the Cardinal, who are one of the top distance programs each year.
“We are super psyched,” said Stanford assistant Elizabeth DeBole, who works primarily with distance runners. “She’s an amazing athlete and a great person; when she came out to visit she clicked with everyone.”
The visit included spending a weekend with a host runner and interacting with the team and coaching staff. DeBalsi was thrilled with the window into the future.
“I felt at home there,” DeBalsi said. “I never really felt that (anywhere else).”
A standout in the classroom with an incredible aptitude for math and science — as well as being a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship program — academics played a major role in her decision.
“I think it’s a great fit,” Staples cross country coach Amanda Morgan said. “The coaches are concerned about the long-term development of the athletes there. And it’s a beautiful place to train and get an education. I think she made a good decision.”
While she’s starred in both indoor and outdoor track in the 3,200 meters, cross country is where she’s truly dominated. She swept the FCIAC, Class LL, State Open and New England titles in both her sophomore and junior seasons. She will attempt to win a national title in December at Foot Locker in San Diego after finishing second and fifth the last two years in the event.
DeBalsi visited Princeton and Harvard in addition to Palo Alto this month.
DeBalsi joins one of the top Division I programs that won three straight national championships from 2005-2007. Competitive for two years, DeBalsi and Westhill graduate Claire Howlett will be teammates in Palo Alto starting this fall. Darien graduate Alex Ostberg is also a freshman at the school, creating an unusual pipeline for the Pac 12 school.
“Honestly I think it’s a bit random,” DeBole said. “We have this Connecticut contingent now, it must be something in the water.”
DeBalsi said it wasn’t a factor in her decision, but certainly a plus to have two local athletes to communicate with in the process.
“I ran with (Howlett) last Christmas break, and talked to Alex a lot as well,” DeBalsi said. “Knowing two people 20 minutes from my house is helpful.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that the decision came on the eve of one of several big races for DeBalsi this fall. With the commitment out of the way, DeBalsi aims to dominate the state for one more year.
“I wanted to get it done before FCIACs basically,” DeBalsi said. “I wanted to be focused on racing and not focused on my decision. I’m really excited for Foot Locker.”
Of the 28 individual titles she’s claimed at the conference and state level in cross country and track, many were won by a comfortable margin. That likely won’t be the case as she will get to compete with and against the top runners in the country on a regular basis.
“It’s going to be amazing,” DeBalsi said. “I think I race the best when I have a ton of girls right around me. Just to train with top level people; I’m beyond excited to do that.”