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Most aspiring college-bound athletes compile offers and decide which school is right for them academically and athletically.

But that was not the case for Greencastle-Antrim's Lauren Hirneisen, who decided that she wanted to attend Liberty University, an NCAA Division I school, even before she knew she wanted to compete on the cross country and track & field teams.

"This summer I took a tour of the campus and I decided I wanted to go there, whether I was going to run or not," Hirneisen said. "I was introduced to the coaches (my junior year) and I had been talking to them trying to decide if I could handle running Division I or not."

But it didn't take long for Hirneisen to cross the t's and dot the i's. She signed her National Letter of Intent in December on her first official visit.

While Hirneisen has been a staple on the Blue Devil cross country and track & field teams throughout her high school career, the addition of freshman phenom Taryn Parks has helped motivate Hirneisen, which paid off in dividends with a 12th-place finish at the 2016 PIAA Class 2A cross country championships after claiming a top-five finish at the District 3 meet to qualify.

She also ran a personal record during the District 3 track & field championships last year to qualify for the PIAA championships in the 1,600 with an eighth-place finish in 5:11.09.

"My sophomore year was the first time I qualified for states and I think that initially is what put me up in a different category," Hirneisen said. "And having Taryn really helped push me a lot this year. It's awesome to have someone to run with and to help get me to states and get me through the season."

She will run cross country, and indoor and outdoor track - which sounds like a hefty workload for an incoming freshman - but Hirneisen said being active also motivates her in the classroom.

"I think I do better in school and work and keeping everything together when I'm running," Hirneisen said. "I've been injured before and whenever I'm injured I'm not as motivated with everything else. So when I'm running and I don't have as much free time I can schedule, it helps me do better with everything."

While her official visit with Liberty inked in her college athletic future, Hirneisen was also diagnosed with pneumonia shortly after that, keeping her off the track for the indoor track & field season. But she still has high expectations for her final season at G-A this spring and the future.

"This season I want to work on the mile get as close to five minutes as I can," Hirneisen said. "Once I get to college I just want to see how fast I can go with a program focused around me getting better. They have strength training and food programs. I just want to see how fast I can go in different events - and after college I'm just never going to run again."

Hirneisen will major in education, although she is unsure what age group she wants to teach.

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