By Doug Petrowski
On the wall of Russ Vincent’ office at Mountlake Terrace High School are the photos of all the track and field teams he has coached over the past nine years at the school, including the team photos from 2003-2007. Vincent is quick to point out one particular track team member from those years; “There she is, in the front row each year.” Dianna Hanson, the 24-year-old former Brier resident who was killed by a lion at a California big cat preserve this week, was a four-year member of the MTHS track team while attending the school.
After hearing of Hanson’s death late Wednesday, Vincent took a personal day on Thursday, showing up only to speak briefly to this year’s track team prior to their practice. He said he spoke for a few minutes about the spirit and leadership that Hanson portrayed during her time at Terrace, then announced that the team’s Most Inspirational Award, presented at the end of the season, would be named after her.
“It was a no-brainer,” Vincent said of naming the inspirational award after Hanson.
Vincent recalled both Hanson’s drive to compete, and her fervor when cheering on her fellow track team members. “Dianna was clearly one of the most enthusiastic kids I have ever coached,” he said. “Her voice could be heard anywhere in any stadium as she yelled in monstrous support for her teammates in a race.”
Hanson competed primarily in the 100 meter hurdles, becoming District 1 champion in the event in 2007, her senior year. Her win was especially amazing to Vincent considering she suffered a leg fracture the year before at the 2006 district meet. “Her smile was never absent even when she crashed over the second-to-last hurdle and broke her leg,” Vincent said. Hanson got up and finished the race.
“That was her junior year and she bounced back and won the race her senior year,” he added.
Paul R. Hanson, Dianna’s older brother, agreed about his sister’s love for track, and her spirit of perseverance. “Being on the track team showed her dedication to working toward a goal,” he said, “and how she wouldn’t let things get her down.”
Even years after Hanson’s graduation from Terrace, the impact she left on Coach Vincent and the school’s track team lives on. “She led the way in almost every area of life, at times verbally, but always by her actions,” Vincent explained.
“What a great kid. She will be missed,” he added.