“This is what I want to do.”
After graduating from Leavenworth as a three-time state champion, she headed to Arizona State, where she became a teammate and roommate of Desiree Davila. In Tempe, Hastings flourished immediately, finishing as the top Sun Devil at the NCAA Cross Country Championship her freshman year, placing 69th overall. She made her first international team that winter, qualifying for the world cross country championships in Switzerland, where she placed 20th and led the U.S. team to a fourth-place finish. It was on that trip that Hastings thought she might be able to make a career out of running.
“I was like, ‘That’s it, that’s what I want to do when I get older, absolutely,’” Hastings recalls. “I was sold on it. I wanted to work as hard as I could so I could run after college and keep going on trips like that to compete against the best runners in the world.”
Over the course of the next three years, Hastings would garner three All-American certificates in cross country, placing as high as 13th at the NCAA championships in 2005, while leading her team to a fourth-place finish. She also shined on the track, winning a Pac-10 steeplechase championship as a sophomore in 2004, and placing fifth in the 5,000m at the NCAA indoor championships in 2005.
Success didn’t always come smoothly for Hastings, however, as she suffered a stress fracture in her foot training for the steeplechase in the spring of 2005—an injury which caused her season to end on a low note (Hastings dropped out of the 10,000m at the NCAA championships), but also one that gave her the chance to reevaluate her racing options and bounce back in a big way.
Hastings used the disappointment of DNFing at NCAAs to prove that there is opportunity in every difficulty, and nine months after suffering from her momentum-killing stress fracture, she won the NCAA indoor title at 5,000m. She graduated in 2007 with a personal best of 15:30.17 in the event, a collegiate indoor record at the time.
“[My stress fracture] was the main the reason I was able to improve on my career. I actually took time off when I broke my foot, really took care of my body, came back really slowly,” says Hastings, who won seven All-American awards in track. “Because of that I ended up switching to the 5K and I had so much more success in the 5K than I would have in the steeplechase. Stuff like that, as long as you trust that things happen for a reason and just put your head down, focus and just keep working hard, then things usually work out.”