Sportlight: Hannah Duran-Wright jumps into the record books

Jesse Gonzalez

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR

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On March 31, first-year Hannah Duran-Wright hopped, skipped, and jumped her way into history as she broke Whittier College’s school record for the Triple Jump event. She represented the Purple and Gold with a record-breaking performance, as the Poets would play host for the first time in Track and Field since 2009. The Southern California Intercollegiate Atheletic  (SCIAC) event took place on the newly-renovated Aubrey Bonham Track and Memorial Stadium. Whittier College’s All-Time Record for the event is now held by Duran-Wright, with her Triple Jump at 10.43 meters. 

“At the moment, I wish I placed higher, but then after coach Lund messaged me saying I had broke the record by a foot, I was really excited,” said Duran-Wright. “I did not take notice at first. I thought it was just me beating my own personal record.” 

Finding out she would compete for Triple Jump after coming as a recruit for the Long Jump event was unexpected news. “I have always been more focused at Long Jump. It was not until I came here when I was exposed more to Triple Jump,” said Duran-Wright. “Every meet I have competed in, I [set] a personal best.” 

Duran-Wright is from a small resort town of Palm Springs, California. “It is a beautiful resort town [that] does not have that many people. It’s small,” said Duran-Wright. “[When] I compete, I always want to do my best because I am representing my school and where I am from.”  

Duran-Wright’s father has helped her through track since she first laced her shoes when she was six. “I figured out I could run when I was in cheer and we would have to run behind the endzone. I would take it very serious,” said Duran-Wright. “I would beat everyone when I was running [only] ten meters. [It] made me realize that I was pretty good at this sport.” 

Her father was a former track athlete for California State University Stanislaus, and he was the main influence and role model Duran-Wright would model her work ethic after. “We started with school track meets.  I was winning by 20 meters and thought, ‘I am pretty good’,” said Duran-Wright. “There are no clubs [for track], in Palm Springs, except for [in] big cities, [where] there would be [some] for youth kids, so my dad put me in club track, and I began competing when I was seven.” 

Participating in “Unattached,” a program that is under the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Wright has competed in four Junior Olympics competitions from when she was in sixth grade to now, traveling to Iowa and Houston, Texas for the meets. Not only was her father her main coach, but Duran-Wright would also train with her siblings and with other athletes under bronze-medal Olympian Dr. John Carlos, who stood at the podium with Tommie Smith and did  the Black Power salute during the 1968 Summer Olympics. “Track was always my main thing,” said Duran-Wright. “I was one of those kids where my life was just school and track. It was the way I was going to get into college, because that is how my dad got to college. I had to focus on that.” 

“My auntie always told me that God has a plan for everything that happens to you,” said Duran-Wright. “[During my] freshman year of high school, I got hurt. I tore my meniscus on my left knee.” 

Sidelined by her injury, Duran-Wright’s expectations began to take a toll on her. “You build that reputation, especially in a small town,” said Duran-Wright. “My sophomore year, I came back, but not to my full capability. Then, junior year, I hurt my ankle. My high school career did not pan out the way I wanted it to be.” 

Duran-Wright once had the dream of competing at a Division I school. Not only does this speak to her story, but also to many other athletes that have to take an alternative route in order to achieve their goals. “I kept doubting myself. I would see people who I knew I could beat as a freshman. I was more hot-headed. I had not taken that leadership role,” said Duran-Wright. “When I got hurt, it was an eye-opener that I can do more, so I played volleyball and basketball.” 

Accepting her injury, Duran-Wright began to rise as a leader in clubs or sporting teams she had been involved with during her years in high school. She would be recognized as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for Track and Volleyball, President for the Black Student Union (BSU),  and Associated Student Body (ASB) for four years, and she would lead Palm Springs High School’s Volleyball to a California Interscholastic Federation championship. 

“I wouldn’t change the knee injury because I feel everything happens for a reason,” said Duran-Wright. “I saw these younger girls that have the potential to go to these Division I schools. I realized that it was not all about the results for me. It was more about teaching these other young girls because I wanted people to know that [they] could go farther outside of Palm Springs.” 

Towards the end of her fourth year of high school, Recruiting Coordinator and Assistant Coach Aaron Lund contacted Duran-Wright. “The coaches would call me everytime, and, when I did my school visit, I liked the small campus,” said Duran-Wright. “The coaches were the ones who got me here. They are young, and I know with young coaches they can show you new stuff.” 

Coach Lund was persistent about showing Duran-Wright how diverse and unique Whittier College is compared to other schools she had received offers from. They allowed her to watch how the Whittier’s Track and Field team works and showed her different clubs, and the organizations she could join. “I wanted to focus on my education first. Track is just a luxury,” said Duran-Wright. “Schools like Redlands University only focused on their athletics instead of their education.”

Duran-Wright plans to get a degree in Sports Broadcasting through the self-designed degree in Whittier Scholars Program to become a reporter. “Both of my parents were teachers, and I wanted to do something different,” said Duran-Wright. “My high school had an Indian news network, and I would talk sports, interview athletes, [and] announce upcoming games, and I just liked it.” 

Currently involved with the Whittier College Sports Network, Duran-Wright learns how to professionally broadcast live sporting events for Whittier College athletics, work with cameras, and run a production for audience members watching. “I think it is beneficial for me in the future because I just do not want to be a reporter that can just speak,” said Duran-Wright. “I got the chance to be behind a microphone for a live Volleyball [game] Men’s and Women’s Basketball, which I never got the chance to do before.” 

Duran-Wright felt Whittier’s welcoming atmosphere in her organization, as well. “The people in it are super motivated. The current president gives us a high five before every game,” said Duran-Wright “We all are one big family, and [my teammates] are my favorite people on campus.” 

Duran-Wright has support from her parents to pursue her goals. She is able to show people from back home and herself that revolving around one thing is not beneficial. “You see a lot of athletes in my town get stuck,” said Duran-Wright. “Now, I look back, and it’s the same people I competed with who are going to the Olympics. I love the experience it gave me, and even though I did get hurt, I can say I competed with the best.”