By PAUL HINES
---- — MT. VERNON – Sports began as a way to get out of school early for Karson Hahn.
Earlier this week they paved the way to college. The Mt. Vernon cross country and track athlete signed with Rend Lake College on Wednesday.He started his running career in junior high.“In seventh grade my friend asked me to join the team so we could get out of school, and (I) kind of got good at it from there,” Hahn said.Even when he started his high school career there were questions about continuing. But he stuck with the both sports.“You talk about model guys that you want for your program,” Mt. Vernon coach Clint Turner said. “We talked about Spencer (Allen) in that way. (Hahn's) the kind of model guy you want for your distance program.”Turner said he looks for toughness, speed and a good work ethic for the runners who compete in the 800 meter event.“It hurts you,” Turner said. “Because it doesn't matter how you run it. If you're a beginner or a veteran it's going to hurt you. It's just a taxing, very demanding event.“To run fast, you have you have to be able to run through that discomfort, and he's always been able to do that.”Currently, Hahn's career is winding down with just a couple weeks left in the track season. He hopes to place at the state finals this season after qualifying for the meet the past two seasons in the 800 meters.“It's not going to be different than any other meet, and I think I'll be fine,” Hahn said.Two years ago he raced in both the 800 meter race along with a relay event. Turner said this year Hahn will focus only on the 800 meter, his marquee event, if he makes it back to state.“We're going to take our best 800 meter guy out of this relay so he can go do what he deserves to be able to go do,” Turner said. “As it sits right now, we're on track to run well.”Hahn said he likes running the 800 meters in track because of its combination of speed and endurance.“It just ended up being a good fit for me,” he said.Hahn has spent the middle of the track season battling bronchitis. He's completely healthy now as the season nears completion.“He didn't shock the world and run great times, but he wasn't running slower,” Turner said of Hahn during the sickness.The track postseason starts Thursday, May 16 at the Salem sectional for Hahn and his Mt. Vernon teammates.