Senior Spotlight: Anya Hirschfeld ’23 attributes her successful running career to community
From the start of her running career at six years old in Seattle to running for the Ukrainian National Team to finding success at Dartmouth, Anya Hirschfeld ’23 reflects on her running communities.
Courtesy of Anya Hirschfeld
Community — this is what track means to Anya Hirschfeld ‘23.
Throughout her life, Hirschfeld has had the opportunity to get involved with several different running communities throughout the United States and Eastern Europe. At the age of six, she began running at her local Seattle recreation center track.
“Track has been my identity for as long as I can remember,” Hirschfeld said. “My dad was a volunteer track coach, so starting in kindergarten, I would show up to the track in my ballet slippers and start running one or two laps around the track with the boys team.”
In middle school, Hirschfeld’s coaches noticed the natural ability she had for the sport. She went on to attend Nationals and was recognized as All-American multiple times in middle school.
Hirschfeld said she and her family moved around often during her childhood. Besides Seattle, she has since lived in France, Armenia and Ukraine. In 2016, while living in Ukraine, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself: running for the Ukrainian National Team.
While living in Ukraine, Hirschfeld began training with the former head coach of the Ukrainian Olympic team, and her coach’s daughter, Anya Lischynskaya. The runners raced together around Ukraine and in the Ukrainian National Championships. Hirschfeld said this experience taught her a lot about Ukraine’s history and culture.
“Through this athletic lens, we learned about the really difficult history that Ukraine has had and how running fits into that,” Hirschfeld said. “For example, this family I trained with, they were actually political refugees from Eastern Ukraine; they ended up in Kyiv, and they just had to reestablish a running community there.”
Hirschfeld also reflected on her race at the Ukrainian National Championships, and how it was amazing to see running bring so many people together — even as most had experienced the effects of some form of political conflict.
To this day, Hirschfeld said she and Lischynskaya have maintained a close relationship. Hirschfeld explained that in the current political climate in Ukraine, Lischynskaya looks to her for solace and support.
“I have kept in touch with [Lischynskaya] for years now,” Hirschfeld said. “During the really bad parts of the war, she will text me and explain what’s going on.”
Hirschfeld said that by her junior year of high school, she realized she wanted to take her track career to the next level. She began training harder and longer during the collegiate recruitment process. Ultimately, Hirschfeld found her way to Hanover.
During her track career at Dartmouth, Hirschfeld has remained successful in her endeavors. Just this past weekend, she — alongside Annie Jackson ’24, Bella Pietrasiewicz ’25 and Julia Fenerty ’23 — claimed first place in the 4x800 relay at the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships. The star-studded relay team also claimed Ivy League Champions in February at the Indoor Heps. Individually, Hirschfeld currently claims a spot on Dartmouth’s Top 10 All-Time List for her times in the indoor 1000 meter and outdoor 1500 meter races.
However, Hirschfeld also acknowledged the struggles that come with running and being a student athlete.
“A lot of runners — myself included — get on the track and are filled with an immediate sense of dread,” Hirschfeld said. “It’s basically just accepting that you're putting yourself into as much pain as you can handle every time you step on the track, and that's a really hard thing to wrap your head around.”
However, with her years of experience, she has learned to combat this truth with a positive attitude.
“When I get on the track, I just like reminding myself how much I love the sport and why I am there,” Hirschfeld said.
In speaking on her experience at Dartmouth, Hirschfeld credits the College and its track program with giving her a place to explore different parts of her identity.
I think it’s better to come to the realization [that I care about running] through the ability of exploring other things and being a balanced person, rather than just committing 100% [to running] and hoping that it works out,” Hirschfeld said. “I am really grateful that Dartmouth has given me so many different avenues to explore myself.”
Women’s track and field assistant coach Kendra Foley praised Hirschfeld for being one of the fiercest competitors on the track that she has ever worked with.
“She sets extremely high goals for herself, and then she chases after them,” Foley said. “She's not afraid to reach, to see just how good she can get.”
Pietrasiewicz, who has raced with Hirschfeld in relays, said that Hirschfield has served as a big inspiration for her on the track team.
“Anya is definitely a fierce competitor and is someone that races very smart and tactically,” Pietrasiewicz said. “She has been a good person to look up to in that way, as she always performs very consistently and very well. It’s always exciting to watch her do what she does.”
Foley also acknowledged the support and devotion that Hirschfeld has provided her and her teammates off the track.
“She wants to make sure that if someone is having an off day that she is right there with them, helping them along, or cooling down with them or meeting them after practice,” Foley said.
Pietrasiewicz said Hirschfeld often goes deeper than “How are you?” when chatting with her teammates.
“Anya has definitely created a more honest and open space within our team and has allowed people to not be afraid to speak their minds.”
Next year, Hirschfeld will continue her running career as a fifth year at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. As she leaves Dartmouth, Hirschfeld said she feels ready to bring running into the next chapter of her life and continue to build her running community elsewhere.
“[In running], you are not only celebrating people, but you're also seeing people for their effort that they put out on the track every day,” Hirschfeld said. “The running community is just really lasting.”