For a while, Savannah Long wasn’t sure she’d get a senior season running track at Southern Illinois as the COVID-19 pandemic struck during the start of her scheduled final season.
But the DeKalb graduate not only got her senior outdoor season in, she may be getting an additional indoor season as her career stretches into six years, coinciding with her finishing her master’s degree in public administration.
“I broke a lot of barriers, especially coming back after a COVID season,” Long said. “It was one of those seasons the competition was tough no matter what because you had a lot of super seniors coming back. But I ran lifetime bests in all my races, got in the top 10 in all my events, so it went really well. And I also made it into the first round of the NCAAs for the first time in my career. So it was nice.”
Long competed at the NCAA Preliminary West Round in May in College Station, Texas. She clocked a 1:00.27 in the 400-meter hurdles to take 32nd.
But she said the experience was incredible because of the level of talent at the event. In her heat of the semifinal round, she was in the lane opposite Anna Cockrell of USC, who went on to not only win the national title but qualify for the Olympics later this month in Tokyo.
“It was a different sense of the track world there compared to a local meet,” said Long, who won a state title in the 300 hurdles and was the Daily Chronicle Girls Track Athlete of the Year. “It was awesome to see the amount of athletes that are going to the Olympics now that I saw there.”
Long said in March 2020 she was prepping for her final outdoor season, although she did have one more indoor season left. But then the pandemic hit, and she wasn’t sure what her future would hold, although she credited the staff at SIU for being communicative and straight forward during the whole, ever-changing ordeal.
“It was crazy. I came home for spring break, and I never went back to school,” Long said. “I was literally sitting with my family at dinner at a restaurant, no mask or anything because no one knew what was going on, and I found out the season was getting canceled. First it was the school, then the conference, then the NCAA. I really did not know what was going to happen.”
So with extra eligibility in hand, Long got her one last outdoor season and is waiting for SIU’s compliance office to confirm her final indoor season in the winter.
She’ll look to add to a career that includes a Missouri Valley Conference championship as part of the 4x400 relay team in the 2020 indoor MVC meet, eight All-MVC honors and the seventh-best 100 hurdles time in SIU history.
“I would not have thought a couple years back I would still be running,” Long said. “It’s going to be a sixth year. But between COVID and everything going on, if I get the chance to run again, I’m going to do it and give it all I have. I would love to make an indoor nationals, that’s always the goal. I still have yet to win an individual conference title.”
Long said she’s still trying to sort out what she’s going to do professionally after her running career is over. She said she always wanted to be in law enforcement but has turned an eye to coaching.
As part of that, she’s running a camp at DeKalb for high schoolers focused on sprints, hurdles, distance and jumps along with her “partner in crime” as she put it, her sister Sierra Long – who runs long sprints and hurdles at Indiana State. The camp runs every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the DeKalb High School track and is free for all students.
“I always said I wanted to go into law enforcement,” Long said. “I still would love to go into law enforcement someday, but I’m looking more into coaching. It’s why I decided to do this camp here. Who knows, city management, we’ll see. I’ll just roll with the punches and see how it goes.”