Hannah Steelman’s introduction to international competition on Saturday produced a golden ending.
The 2017 Orono High School graduate, who recently completed her sophomore year at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday while representing Team USA at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) U23 Track and Field Championships held in Queretaro, Mexico.
Competing at an altitude of 5,970 feet, Steelman completed the race in 10 minutes, 21.88 seconds to best fellow Southern Conference runner Gabrielle Jennings of Furman, who finished in 10:47.35.
Two Mexican runners finished third and fourth, with Nayelly Mendoza at 11:18.66 and Arian Iveth Chia at 11:48.30.
Team USA at the NACAC meet consisted of two athletes per individual event based upon the U.S. performance rank order list of all age-eligible athletes. Thirty-one nations were represented at the event.
She finished third in the steeplechase at the NCAA championships in a school-record time of 9:46.08, after previously winning the Southern Conference title in the event.
Steelman also earned first-team All-America status in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAAs with an eighth-place finish.
She is likely to compete next in the steeplechase at the Toyota USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships set for July 25-28 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She already has achieved a qualifying time for the event with her personal-best clocking of 9:46.08 at the NCAA championships.
The USATF qualifying standard is 9:50.
During her career at Orono High School, Steelman won the 2014 Class C individual cross country state championship as a sophomore and helped the Red Riots win three consecutive state team titles.
She also was a three-time individual state champion in the Class C 1,600 meters during outdoor track season and as a senior she added her first state title in the 3,200. Steelman also helped Orono win the 4×800 relay in 2017 as the Red Riots captured what at the time was their sixth consecutive Class C state championship.