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A dark and dismal period in her life that included her mother's stroke brightened for Cedar Crest sprinter Hannah McCurdy last week when she helped set a new county record in the 4 x 100 relay.

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Life, as the saying goes, comes at you pretty fast sometimes.

For Hannah McCurdy, life's velocity has been cranked up to a fairly unreasonable level since the beginning of the year.

Fortunately for the Cedar Crest track and field team's junior sprinter, it's starting to slow down again.

The year 2017 got off to a traumatic, almost tragic, start for  McCurdy when her mother, Susan, suffered a very serious stroke and was hospitalized for close to two months.

With her parents divorced, Hannah had to quickly transform into a full-fledged adult to help her younger sister Rebekah and grandmother manage day-to-day life, as well as her own academic and athletic responsibilities. She received significant support from her father and Cedar Crest jumping coach Shawn McCurdy, but still had an unfathomable amount of stress and responsibility to deal with at a time when life should have been at its most carefree.

She's even recently dealt with some concerning fainting spells during workouts, but that storm too - hopefully - seems to have passed.

But from January until recent weeks, dark clouds were pretty much everywhere.

"She had a blood clot on her brain," McCurdy said of her mother. "She was in  ICU for 3 days, then she was moved to a regular hospital. She wasn't really there (mentally) for like a month or two. It was really hard. She knew all of us, but she didn't really know what happened to her. For a while, it was difficult. We were living with my grandma for a while."

McCurdy also spent time living with her dad while Rebekah stayed with her grandmother, and he was instrumental in helping her deal with her newfound responsibilities.

"He definitely helped me," McCurdy said. "He sat me down and we talked about stuff. I'm very open with my parents, I tell them everything. It relieved a lot just to talk it out."

But talking it out didn't bring her mom's health back instantly or reduce all of her stress.

"Late February or March, she was able to come home," she said. "We still had my grandma living with us because (Susan) couldn't make schedules or organize and stuff. Because her brain just wasn't there. It was difficult at home with me and my sister trying to take care of everything with my grandma. And then with school work on top of that, I was up really late at night doing homework. My grades were slipping for a while, but I've got them back up now."

Through it all, though, track and field provided consistent solace. Through the workouts that kept her mind and body and healthy and through the emotional support of teammates and coaches - namely best friend and distance runner Taylor Laliberte and head coach Rob Bare, who could relate to McCurdy's care-giving responsibilities since he's helped his wife, Tiffany, in her cancer battle for the last 13 years.

"She's got a lot on her plate, and she's handled it really, really well," Bare said. "As a 16, 17-year old that would have been pretty tough for me to handle. For a high school kid to have those extra responsibilities on her plate, it's a lot to ask and a lot to do.

"She would come to practice and you could tell she was tired and very stressed out about it. So me being a cancer care-giver for my wife, I was able to pull her aside and say, 'Hey, just use this practice time to get away from it all. Forget about it. When you come to practice think about practice only and have fun with your teammates.' I think that was something good for her to hear."

It was indeed. At her lowest moments, the sport she loves picked her back up off the ground and got her moving forward again.

"I'm not used to taking care of so much, so having to do that was really stressful. It was like, 'Why did this happen to me?'", McCurdy said. "Focusing on my running and being with my friends really took my mind off everything that was going on at home. It was relieving to be with my friends and just goof off."

And then last Saturday came a timely reward for all the struggles, when she teamed with DeAsia Holloman, Ariel Jones and Destinee Holloman to set a new Lebanon County record in the 4 x 100 meter relay.

Going into the county meet, McCurdy wasn't sure if she or teammate Shayla Bonzelet would run the first leg of the relay, but when Bare informed her that morning that it would be her to lead things off, the skies in her world finally brightened again.

"We said to her, 'Hey, Hannah. You're running.'" Bare recalled. "And, of course, she jumps at that opportunity. Then to go out there and run just a terrific first leg...As a coach, you're happy when your team wins but when you get individual accomplishments from kids like that that have a lot on their plate, it's awesome to see."

You can probably guess who McCurdy's first phone call went to following the record-breaking performance.

"Oh my gosh, I called her once it happened and actually the phone went out," McCurdy said of her mom. "I told her everything but she never heard it. So we got back to the school and I called her again. She was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so proud of you.' She was really excited for me.

"I was jumping off the walls, hugging everyone, screaming. I was so excited."

Even more exciting for McCurdy and her mom is the fact that Susan's recovery is picking up steam. She's able to walk without assistance again and her cognitive abilities are also returning.

Which means Hannah is getting back to her old self, too, albeit a stronger, wiser version of herself with important advice to dispense for anyone her age who finds themselves in a similar situation.

"I would definitely tell them to have people there for you," she said. "It was amazing all the people from my church, and the track team and from school in general that were there for me. Push through, you can do it. You'll make it through eventually."

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