Autumn Hair jumps toward CMU track & field success

Credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics Credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics

Fresh off competing at Carnegie Mellon University’s annual Quad meet, junior Autumn Hair is ready to finish the last four weeks of the track and field season.

Hair, a professional writing major, recorded a career-best distance of 10.80 meters in the triple jump, winning the event and helping the Tartans win the overall meet by a wide margin. Growing up mainly in Georgia and the Philadelphia area, Hair had a rocky start to her track and field career, which began when she was in seventh grade at the age of 12.

“I was really terrible at it,” Hair said in an interview. “I started off as a sprinter, and [the coaches] basically told me that I needed to try other stuff, because I was so bad at sprinting. Luckily, I’ve gotten a lot better now.”

Hair switched to jumping, which proved to be a much better fit. Though today she still competes in the 4x100 meter relay, the long jump and the triple jump are the main events she competes in for the Tartans. Her journey to Carnegie Mellon’s track and field team began with an acceptance letter and an email, not recruitment.

“I wasn’t recruited for track,” she said. “I had already gotten [into Carnegie Mellon], then I emailed [Head Coach] Aldrich, and we were in touch and he said, ‘Your distances are good’ — not that much to it.”

For Hair, both the team and individual aspects of track and field contributed to her desire to continue competing in college.

“I wanted to try to get better at jumping too, ‘cause I didn’t feel like my career was over in high school. I just love competing and I love being part of a team. But, I do like that it’s more of an individual sport — if I have a bad performance, I only let myself down. It’s not like with the 4x100, if I drop the baton, then I let that whole team down.”

The team aspect of the Tartan squad translates off the track. The team spends most of their time together away from competing with each other. Hair says most of her friends have come from track and field.

“Even when we’re not at practice, we just hang out with each other,” she said. “We definitely are very close. It definitely has impacted the people I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”

The track and field schedule is a full-year, two-semester grind. After several weeks of strength and conditioning workouts in the fall semester, the team competes for six weeks in indoor track and field, followed by six more weeks in outdoor competitions.

Athletes in different events maintain different schedules. Hair’s schedule consists of five practices a week: three days of two-hour workouts and two days of three-hour workouts each week. Though it is a packed schedule, Hair says that it has helped her better prioritize and manage her schedule.

Hair’s collegiate track and field career will not end this semester, as she has one year left of eligibility. She is excited to continue competing and improving.

“I didn’t start off very good at it, but I got better and I could see myself improving. The results are very tangible. You can see that your distances are getting farther, and you can feel your form improving,” she said. “I really like to be able to focus on myself and improve my own skills, but also being able to cheer on my teammates.”