When Raynell Hagberg broke the Florida Atlantic University record in the 800m with a 2:09.91 at Gator Invitational in April, a mark which slashed nearly two seconds from her previous best time and qualified her for the NCAA East Regional Championship meet, it was hardly a shock: The previous spring, the Stuart native eclipsed the school record no less than a half-dozen times en route to winning that event at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships (2:16.99, 2:16.12, 2:15.53, 2:13.80, 2:13.71, 2:11.87). In her only 1500m of the spring, she ran 4:39.58, equivalent to right around a five-minute mile.
The spring of 2004 proved kind to Hagberg. She took second at the conference championships in the 800m, was an integral member of 4 x 400m and 4 x 800m relay teams throughout the season, and narrowly missed qualifying for the 800m final at the East Regionals in Gainesville, where her 2:10.09 was her second-fastest time ever and placed her second in her preliminary heat and 12th overall. Hagberg and sprinter Daquia McCoy were the Lady Owls' sole individual representatives at the East Regional meet, which served as a qualifier for the NCAA National Championships, a meet Hagberg hopes to qualify for in the coming campaign.
Though it's now cross-country season, Hagberg isn't officially on the Owls' team roster this fall, though she does plans to run a couple of meets – including the Disney Invitational, the conference championship meet and possibly the NCAA South Regional meet – to help out the Lady Owls. "I'm training with the FAU sprinters now," says Hagberg, noting that moving from the 40 miles a week she formerly ran as a harrier to the more intense conditioning work undertaken by the sprint crew has proven a big change. "I'm a speed-based middle-distance runner as opposed to an endurance-based middle-distance runner," she says, "So working with the sprinters makes sense."
Hagberg, however, is no slouch when it comes to the turf. After enjoying a solid season as a redshirt frosh in 2002, she broke out last fall at the Disney Invite with a 19:03 over 5,000 meters for 28th. She notched a 19:01 for 12th at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships and followed that up with a 73rd at the South Regional Championships, recording a solid 22:49 for 6K and placing in the top half of a very competitive field. Though Hagberg has yet to dip under 19:00 for 5K, her 6K best of 22:35 from 2002, when she was the team's number-one runner for most of the season, translates into a 5K time in the mid-18's.
Over the upcoming winter, Hagberg will redshirt indoor track before embarking on her fourth and final outdoor track season, when she hopes to finish in the top five in the 800m at the East Regionals, a performance that would earn her a spot at the NCAA National Championships. She'll then have one season of collegiate eligibility left – indoor track in 2005-2006.
Hagberg won't limit herself to the 800m, though forays into other events will be means to a programmed end. "In high school I was a miler as well and I loved it but I'm focused on the 800 now," says Hagberg, who will collect a psychology degree in December before beginning her pursuit of a second bachelor's degree in engineering. "So while I'll sometimes do other events, they'll be geared toward preparing me for the 800, not goal races in themselves." Hagberg has definite plans to continue her competitive career after college. "This year will tell me a lot," she says. "The way things have gone for me, I can't see myself running only one or two more seasons."
Meanwhile, FAU's oft-broken 800m record remains in serious jeopardy.