Cross Country SEC Championship (Photo by: Beau Brune)

Senior Michael Hans is in his sixth and final year of Georgia cross country. He is emerging as a strong leader that the team can look up to and emulate as he finishes his time in Athens.

Over the years, he has achieved numerous accolades including many top-10 finishes. He started this season off with a sixth-place finish overall at the North Alabama Showcase.

After his hard work and dedication over the years at Georgia spanning all the way back to 2016, Hans, his teammates and his coach all believe that this has shaped him into an important and necessary leadership figure on the team.

“Just from all my experiences and everything, between traveling, racing, showing up to practice every single day, it’s just become like second nature to me,” Hans said. “It really just kind of allowed me to lead a lot of the younger guys on the team.”

Leading the team

These leadership and model qualities just didn’t start in college. One of his Georgia teammates, senior Nicole John, said she noticed his leadership right off the bat when they ran together at Oconee County High School.

As Hans is two years older than her, John said that he naturally shaped into a leadership role for her in high school and that she really respected his leadership style.

“I’d say in high school, he … very much stepped into the leadership role,” John said. “Not in any authoritative type of way, he just kind of did what he needed to do and people followed that.”

She said it’s been fun to watch him grow into the collegiate figure that he is today and he is even better at it due to the stakes that accompany being a collegiate athlete. John said she appreciates the balance he brings to his leadership role. Just as he leads on the course, he spends time with runners outside of cross country.

John said Hans influenced her in high school and helped shape her into a leader that she has brought to the women’s side on the cross country team.

“They put a really good path in front of me on what it looks like to lead and work hard,” John said. “I wanted to follow that.”

On top of the many leadership qualities he has brought to the team and the respect that he has garnered, Hans is looking to have his best running performances this year as well. He has goals to place as higher than he ever has at SECs as well as be on the All-Region team.

As he continues to be a role model for younger athletes, he wants to continue to stay humble and not let his head get too big, emphasizing his true character as not only a respectable leader and athlete, but as a respectable person as well.

“It makes me want to be a better person because I want to set a better example for everybody kind of coming in and all the freshmen,” Hans said. “It really kind of makes me push myself to be better and strive to be the best person I could be.”

Respect from others

Coach Patrick Cunniff said all of Hans’ dedication and hard work has garnered respect from him and his teammates over the years. So much to the point that Cunniff considers him one of his go-to athletes for opinions and discussions regarding the team.

Because Hans has been at Georgia for so long, Cunniff said he is beginning to think of Hans as a peer rather than just another player.

“My respect for him kind of even extends to that next step where I’m looking for his input on … how the team is doing, how the team is feeling,” Cunniff said.

Not only does his coach recognize Hans’ attributes, but so do his teammates. For younger runners, Hans is a competitor that they can look up to and possibly try to duplicate.

Redshirt freshman Zachary Roe said Hans has helped him develop into a more competitive runner.

“Looking up to him as a sixth year and when he’s been here for so long is really helpful to me in developing my running career,” Roe said. “How to be able to work hard like he does in practice and how to be able to race really well like he does.”

Hans and Roe have developed a friendship over their time at Georgia while running together and have even developed similar running paces, according to Roe. This bond has made Roe notice all the hard work and dedication Hans puts in throughout practices and training in the summers.

This has created an aspiration and example of what Roe wishes to become as a runner. While Hans’ career at Georgia is coming to an end, Roe’s time as a Bulldogs is just getting started in his first season with the Bulldogs.

“That part of him, just the work ethic,” Roe said. “The priority he puts upon running and upon working hard in practice and having that show in races is something to model.”