Hannah McKenney, practices at Skowhegan Area High School on Wednesday for the upcoming Class A state championship meet in Lewiston this Saturday. McKenney will be competing in the 100, 400 and 800 meter events. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

BATH — Hannah McKenney was still smiling as she left the podium at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, following her win in the 800-meter run, and her second triumph of the day.

She had plenty of cause for celebration. After all, it sure beats what was happening last year.

McKenney, who also won the 400-meter dash, missed all of last season with bone marrow edema in her left shin, causing pain throughout her lower leg and leading to a lengthy rehabilitation and recovery process to get back to form.

One year later, the Skowhegan sophomore’s a two-time KVAC champion, and a threat to pull off both again at the Class A state championships at Lewiston High School on Saturday.

“One thing to know about Hannah McKenney, she’s a competitor,” Skowhegan coach Dave Evans said. “She hates to lose, she’s always trying to push herself to get better. What more do you ask out of a kid?”

Now that she has a chance to be the best, the meaning isn’t lost on the Skowhegan speedster.

“It was really rewarding, for sure,” McKenney said. “My expectations were to win. I was like ‘I’m not going out of here without a win.’ “

Skowhegan’s Hannah McKenney runs the 400 meters during the KVAC meet last week at McMann Field in Bath. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

McKenney, whose first love is field hockey, started doing indoor track in the winter as a way to stay in shape for the fall, when she’s a rising star for Paula Doughty’s dynastic field hockey team. And she turned heads her first season on the track, finishing eighth in the Class A state meet in the 400 and coming near the school record.

“We noticed her toughness,” Evans said. “We found out that this girl can run forever.”

Two practices into the spring, however, McKenney began feeling “a sharp, throbbing pain” in her left leg.

I went and saw the trainer, and he thought that maybe it was a shin splint,” she said. “But then he realized after a while, because it wasn’t improving, that it probably wasn’t a shin splint. So he told me he thought that I should get it checked out, so I went to the doctors and they requested an MRI.”

The MRI revealed the edema, which is swelling due to fluid, in McKenney’s case, in the bone. Hearing “bone marrow” in a diagnosis is never comforting, and McKenney said the verdict came as a jolt.

I was shocked at first, and then really overwhelmed,” she said.

The doctors’ word meant she had to be shut down completely, and her promising freshman season was dashed.

“The thing about Hannah, she was still working hard,” Evans said. “She thought she was going to work through it.”

The recovery process meant two months on crutches, followed by another six weeks of physical therapy — not all of which went smoothly.

Sometimes it was like two steps forward, one step back,” she said. “You would think I’d be making progress, and then I’d go back.”

She had a goal in mind, however. Field hockey was on the horizon, and McKenney was determined not to miss it, or even be at anything less than full strength.

Field hockey is my passion, so I knew I had to get back for that. So that really pushed me to do whatever I had to do to get back on the field,” she said. “I  did all that they asked me to do. I did stretches for everything, and then after that, they had me wear a brace on my ankle and a sleeve on my shin, and then slowly progress back into it.”

By the time field hockey season arrived, she was healthy. And after some initial trepidation, she saw it for herself.

At first, I was kind of afraid that it would come back,” she said. “But then I didn’t let that stop me. I went and went and it never came back.”

McKenney played the whole fall without incident, scoring a goal in Skowhegan’s 3-0 victory in the Class A North final. The winter came and went as well, and this spring, Evans kept a close watch on his sophomore, given what had happened the year before.

He knew, though, that he wouldn’t have to worry about her mindset.

“We knew we’d keep an eye on it and monitor it,” he said. “She’s really an old-school athlete in a new-school body. … Whatever she does, she’s going to take it seriously because she wants to be good at it. If (we) said ‘Sit down, we’re going to play tiddlywinks,’ she’s going to want to beat you.”

That approach came through at the KVACs, where she won the 400 in 59.62 seconds and the 800 at 2:22.77.

I knew it was going to be hard, but my goal was to win both,” said McKenney, who was also 15th in the 100. “I knew that if I worked on my form like we’ve been working on in practice and everything, that I could do it.”

The field won’t get easier at the state meet. After sitting on the sidelines, however, McKenney is ready for the challenge.

There are going to be a lot of girls from the south that are going to be really tough,” she said. “But I think I’m going to be able to compete with them.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.