Athletic sisters adjust to Texas trails after growing up in Alaskan wilderness

11 months ago
Pablo Juarez
Sports Editor

Ever since senior Samantha Hartke and freshman Sara Hartke were little, they have always enjoyed being active. Fast-forward years later and they continue to run side-by-side — this time on UTD’s women’s cross-country team.

Sara and Samantha Hartke grew up constantly moving because of their father’s position in the Air Force. They spent a few years in Germany in the early portions of their life before moving to Alaska where they spent the majority of their childhood. It was in Alaska where the two sisters were first introduced to cross-country.

“(Alaska) is somewhere where it’s really easy to get into running and skiing,” Samantha Hartke said. “It’s something you get into because it’s fun, not because you’re looking to be on a team or looking for a workout.”

Sara Hartke said what made running so much fun in Alaska was the nature. That was the biggest difference between running in Alaska as opposed to Texas.

“There are a lot of hills, but (running) was fun,” she said. “There’s a lot more work but we were on trails where it was really pretty and you were surrounded by trees and just nature.”

Occasionally, they had to evade wild animals during their afternoon runs with friends.

“(We’d) spend two hours after school running on these trails with all (our) friends and running away from moose once in awhile,” Samantha Hartke said.

Sara Hartke said it’s sometimes hard for people to understand why they miss Alaska and why they occasionally have trouble orienting themselves here.

“(We miss Alaska) so much because of the intimacy with more rural areas where you can go out and not see a whole bunch of people or cars on the streets when you’re running,” she said. “We’re not running on paved sidewalks. (People) don’t understand why we can’t find our way around (UTD) because there’s no topography. Back home if you head towards a certain mountain you know you’re going to make it home or if you head towards the inland, but here it’s just building and roads.”

Samantha and Sara Hartke weren’t always as close as they are now. But attending and running for the same university has helped their relationship grow stronger.

“We’re about two and a half years apart, so my little brother is close to (Sara) in age and our older sister is close to me, so it was always me and my older sister and her and our younger brother,” Samantha said. “As we got older, with high school we realized it was more important to stay close and use each other as resources. The number of times I called (Sara) and snapchatted her my freshman year (of college) is embarrassing.”

Sara said running with her sister has given them an opportunity to explore the world side-by-side.

“With traveling in general, we have ran at a lot of different places together,” she said. “Like this summer (I) visited (Samantha) in Kansas City and we went running there and so many different places together.”

Samantha Hartke said because of the nature of the sport an athlete’s running buddy becomes like their sibling, but having your actual sibling beside you makes it more fun and special.

“It’s really nice to have someone whose door you can knock on be like, ‘We’re going running, come on,’” she said.

When applying to colleges, Samantha and Sara Hartke said they never considered dropping sports because it has always been a part of their academic life. But sometimes there are tradeoffs to being a student-athlete.

“The other morning we were doing a tempo run at 6:40 a.m. and I look over and I’m pouring sweat, my legs are hurting. … I look over at (Residence Hall South) and I think, ‘All my friends are in there sleeping … wouldn’t it be nice to not be out here pouring sweat and breathing really hard,’” Sara Hartke said.

As Samantha and Sara Hartke continue to adjust to Texas, they remain on the hunt for favorite trails to run on.

“In the off-season I’ll go to the Preston Ridge Trail, White Rock Lake and Arbor Hills,” Samantha Hartke said. “There’s a lot of really good (trails out there). Obviously not Alaskan trails, but as close as you can get.”