Fallston's Hannahs on a state title roll

Played on four straight state title teams

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 13, 2010|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

McKenzie Hannahs never expects to see her name in the headlines.

A defender in three sports, the Fallston senior resigned herself long ago to doing her job consistently well in the shadow of her high-scoring teammates. That role, however, has paid off in a way that none of her peers can match -- with four straight state championships.

Hannahs might be the first athlete in state tournament history to win titles in three distinctly different sports -- basketball, lacrosse and soccer -- over four successive seasons. Even if you include cross country and track, she's still in a very exclusive club.

"You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association since 1981, adding that he had never heard of that happening before.

Hannahs, 17, still can't quite absorb the magnitude of such success, even when she's looking at the four championship plaques on her bedroom wall.

"It still doesn't hit me. I think about it and I'm, 'My gosh, I have four state championships. Wow. I'm so excited.' I'm definitely honored."

While Hannahs has said she's "blessed" to be at Fallston with so many other good athletes and such good coaches, she is the only Cougar to win four in a row in a girls athletics program with six state titles in the past five seasons.

An All-Metro soccer player, she has been critical to all four titles, not only for her consistently tough defense but also for scoring a penalty kick to help win the 2009 soccer title and for holding a 100-goal scorer without a goal in the 2009 lacrosse final. In winning two basketball championships -- including the first ever for a Harford County girls team -- she rarely came off the court.

"She was the unsung hero of our team," said Jess Harlee, the All-Metro star of the basketball team. "She was a defensive specialist and she always played on the best player. She always came through with her job every single game. Without her, we wouldn't have won."

Mike McTeague, who coached the basketball and lacrosse teams, agreed.

"If you're watching closely," he said, "she does all those little things, especially on defense that you need. Athleticism is athleticism and if you can play defense and move your feet and you're smart off the ball, you can help in a lot of ways. The backbone of the team is not the one player, but the many players, players like McKenzie."

Hannahs' grand slam is even more remarkable because the Cougars were not favored to win any of those championships.

They started off in the winter of 2009 by edging defending champion Paint Branch, 65-62, for the Class 3A basketball crown. The lacrosse team followed with its first state title, whipping 15-time state champ Mount Hebron, 16-1. This school year in Class 2A, the Cougars edged Winters Mill on the eighth penalty kick for the soccer title and then nipped Gwynn Park, 58-53, for another basketball crown.

Asking Hannahs to pick a favorite championship is like asking her to pick a favorite sport. She's torn.

"The highlight was I think basketball last year. That was the closest game and it was so nervewracking the last couple minutes. I still get chills thinking about it," she said. "All the state games were different in many ways. Lacrosse? Never thought we would win 16-1. Never. And the soccer PKs? I almost had a heart attack to top it all off."

OK, so which is her favorite sport?

"Everybody asks me that and I don't know. The season I'm playing, I'm into it. Playing three sports is tough, but I enjoy playing them all for different reasons. Each sport is different. I like the variety."

Playing three sports, Hannahs is part of a dwindling number of such versatile athletes as more and more teenagers focus on one sport year-round. Sparks said that makes a grand slam even more impressive.

"It's a rare kid -- who's got to be a very good athlete nowadays -- who can put the soccer ball down and pick up the basketball and be a starter and a contributor on a team and as soon as that's over, pick up her stick and be good at that. It takes that special talent."

Hannahs said she never felt pressured to focus on one sport. Her father, Mark, co-coach of the Cougars soccer team, played three sports and supported Hannahs and her brother Nelson, 20, in all three. Sister Meredith, 12, plays two but might also add a third.

What Hannahs has done worked out perfectly for college. With a 3.78 grade-point average, she wants to focus on academics, not big-time sports. She committed to play lacrosse at Dickinson, a Division III school where, she said, she might be able to play soccer, too, if she misses it.

As her high school career comes to an end, Hannahs has a chance for a fifth state title with the No. 15 lacrosse team headed into the regional quarterfinals Saturday, but if that doesn't happen -- and it's another long shot -- she said it won't diminish her success.

"Twenty years from now, I'll look back on it and I'm still just going to be in shock. I really am. I'll probably look at it and just smile, remember all the girls I've been with, all the team bonding, the little drama on each team you have to deal with and the state semis and state games, everyone cheering, what you're thinking, getting chills and I'll probably smile again."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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