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‘I don’t want a normal school’

Warren’s Naomi Hahn looking for a different path at VMI

Warren Area High School senior Naomi Hahn, seated next to her parents, Lori and Ken Hahn,, signs her National Letter of Intent to run at Division I Virginia Military Institute.

It takes a certain mindset to join the United States Marine Corps. The same can be said for distance running.

Combining the two, and doing it at a military academy, that’s something altogether different. But it’s just what Warren senior Naomi Hahn will do when she joins the Virginia Military Institute next fall.

“I love the atmosphere (there), I love the military lifestyle,” Hahn said. “It’s a really good inlet for military and succeeding in the Marines, so it will give me a go

od head start to that lifestyle.”

Not a traditional post-high school path, but it’s one Hahn was certain of.

“When she chose VMI, I was a little nervous,” her mom, Lori, said. “But there was a moment she had with her sister, her sister said, ‘Are you sure you want to go to military school? It’s not the normal school.’ Naomi said, ‘I don’t want a normal school.’ That’s when I knew.

Warren's Naomi Hahn.

She’s not looking at this as just a college experience,” Lori continued. “She’s looking at this as this is her future and what she wants to get out of life.”

This journey started with family, both the running and the Marines.

“My dad was a Marine, so that really affected how I grew up,” Naomi said. “And I grew up with those morals and I just wanted a career that aligned with that. I wanted a career where I could be honorable and have other honorable people around me and that’s where I saw it.”

As for running? That was all about wanting to be like mom and big sister.

“My sister was running and I wanted to be like my sister,” Naomi said. “My mom and sister were out on runs, so I was like, ‘I want to be out with Gabby.’ So I went with them.”

It didn’t take long for Naomi to get to the front of the pack.

“I started running when our oldest daughter, Gabby, was in 7th grade,” Lori said. “We lived out in the country and I didn’t want her running by herself. It wasn’t that long before they were running ahead of me and I was seeing them in the distance.”

The idea that running could help her achieve her career goals didn’t really sink in until after her freshman season in cross country.

“It really kicked in when I made states the first time and I realized how close everything was and if I really worked for it I could get there,” Naomi said.

“Coach (Kevin) Dustin pulled us aside and said, ‘She’s nationally ranked. We need to look at her training and diet,'” Lori said. “I was like, ‘I didn ‘t even know this was a possibility.’ But she’s always been so determined.”

That trip was the first of seven Naomi would make to Hershey, four times for cross country and three, so far, for track. The trips to states proved just how determined she could be.

“She said when she started, ‘I’m going to go to states eight times,'” her dad, Ken, said. “She sets these goals, strives for them, puts in the extra time, the hard work, whatever she needs to do. She’s focused.”

“It’s not just practice time,” Lori added. “She comes home and does extra runs or an extra workout. She knew that it’s not just that hour and a half at practice that’s going to get her her goals.”

That extra work paid off in a big way her junior season. After a fourth place finish at the District 10 meet, Naomi went to Hershey and returned with a PIAA state medal.

“It was surreal,” she said.

She was positioned well as the race was nearing its end, but needed one final push to seal the deal.

“She came around the turn and Brian Ristau was yelling at her ‘You’re 26!’ She’s like, ‘I don’t want to be the first one to not medal,'” Lori said. “And she booked it and ended up coming in 21st. We started jumping up and down and coach Dustin was jumping up and down. It was like, wow all those dreams she had just came true.”

It took some time for the realization that she had won a state medal to set in.

“I was sitting in the car after, holding it and it didn’t feel like I had it, like I was just holding it for someone else,” Naomi said.

Injury slowed her senior season, but Naomi was able to come back in time to garner another top-10 finish at Districts and a fourth trip to the state cross country meet. She took the opportunity while injured to mentor her teammates. Naomi was often running with Katie Beyer, in her first year on the team, and Beyer also earned a trip to states.

“I absolutely love Katie, she’s so great to train with and run with,” Naomi said. “I think she really helped keep me positive this season whenever I was down and beaten up she really kept me going. A lot of times people forget, yeah it’s an individual sport, but you don’t do well without your teammates.”

Naomi will try to make it 8-8 on state qualifying in the spring, then will head to VMI where she plans to major in International Studies with a minor in Rhetoric and Writing. Her goal is to have a career in Public Affairs, again, not the “normal” military path.

“I just feel like not enough people know what’s really going on within the military and especially the Marines,” she said. “You don’t hear about that a lot in the media and I’d like to get more of the positive stuff out there because I feel like you don’t hear that enough.”

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