Digital Story

Overcoming Personal Hurdles

Mackenzie Hartman was born to be an athlete. She played travel softball growing up but quickly realized that her favorite part of the game wasn’t swinging a bat or throwing a ball in from the outfield. It was running from base to base. So, Hartman ditched the bat and picked up a pair of running shoes instead. From then on, her running career took off. Literally. Hartman finished her high school career with five state titles. Now she’s started a new journey as a track and field athlete at the University of North Carolina.

Hartman standing in front of Loudermilk

Hartman is not your average Public Policy and Economics major. As much as she’s a student, she’s an athlete too. Her days are packed but she strives to find a balance between academics and athletics. She has class in the mornings, practice in the afternoons, and spends her evenings studying in Loudermilk, a study center for athletes. Take a look at her typical schedule to see what being a student-athlete looks like.

Her injury

During Hartman’s senior season, tragedy struck for the track prodigy. She had gone into her outdoor season with much anticipation. She was running her first few races of the year in 43 seconds, which is a time she hit toward the very end of her junior season. In Ohio, the cold makes it harder to run, so this feat was all the more impressive. However, Hartman started to feel pain in her leg. She did her best to ignore it, but race after race, the pain kept growing.

Why her story matters

Who am I without my sport? This is a question a lot of student-athletes may ask themselves. They live their lives focused on one thing: winning. But what happens when winning and competing are no longer an option? Well, this is something Hartman had to find out for herself during her senior year of high school after getting injured during her indoor track season.

She loves to compete

Hartman’s foot pain started to ramp up toward the beginning of her outdoor season senior year. She knew she needed to get an MRI, but she wanted to run in one last race before getting her results back.

So, Hartman drove all the way up to Dayton to compete in one final meet before her injury took her season away. And in that meet, Hartman did what she does best: she competed and won. She set a personal record for the 100 hurdles. A week later, Hartman got her MRI back and her high school career officially came to a close.

When Hartman first found out about her injury, she was devastated. “I have never cried so hard in my life,” Hartman recalls after hearing the news. Slowly but surely, Hartman grew comfortable with who she was outside of sports. She would still go back and visit her teammates, but she also spent her newfound free time hanging out with friends and family.

“There’s more to me than just track, so even if I don’t have it anymore, I am still myself”

— Mackenzie Hartman

Now, Hartman is fully healed. She is excited to start her new journey as a student-athlete at UNC. She is grateful for her high school career, though it ended earlier than she would have liked. Currently, she is thrilled to be a Tar Heel and can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds.

UNC is known for its culture of athletic excellence. Although the acronym stands for the University of North Carolina, some Tar Heel aficionados claim the true acronym stands for the University of National Champions. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina it is always a great day to be a Tar Heel.

More than an athlete

Hartman has joined the UNC athletics family. However, as we have learned, she is more than just an athlete. She is a student, friend, sister, daughter, and classmate. She is not one without the other. She is everything. Her life for the next four years will continue to be defined by a little dash. Student-Athlete. It is a title that Hartman embraces and happily sees herself as, but it is also a title she proudly sees herself beyond. Hartman is a student-athlete, but she has proven that she is also much more than that.


photos provided by Mackenzie Hartman

graphics made with the help of