Hibbing, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The sound of the start gun is a welcoming noise for Hibbing sophomore runner Hannah Clement, who started with cross country as a sophomore but saw her junior season last year cut short.
"I was driving to go do chores for a friend with her horses, and a deer jumped out in front of me," Clement said. "I swerved to miss it, and when I did, I over-corrected and caught the side of the road. I flipped end for end three times and then rolled once into a swamp."
Clement suffered a concussion, major whiplash, and had a gap in her ribs which sidelined her for six months.
"It was all slow motion," she said of the accident. "It was like what am I doing. You just kind of sit there for a while after you landed and wonder what just happened."
Clement could have easily hung up her spikes after the accident and called it quits. But as she says, she came back to pass along an important message for her teammates.
"I inspire a lot of the younger kids," she said. "When I tell them my story, they're like I can't really complain now about not having a good race. I'm like you just have to push through the injuries, and you guys can do it."
"For these younger girls coming up to see what Hannah went through last year to this year," Bluejackets head coach James Plese said, "how much she's come through, and how much she's improved especially these last couple of races, I think it sets a great example for our younger runners."
It's a great example, Clement says, of how quickly things can change.
"It definitely changed my life," she said. "You get a greater appreciation for life and realize it can be taken away that fast."
A greater appreciation for the little things in life, including the chance to compete in her senior season.
"It feels amazing," Clement said of running her senior year. "I'm so glad, and I'm so lucky that I can actually run again."