Some people know how to make an entrance.
In her high school debut, Mia Cochran of Moon Area turned heads in western PA with her resounding victory in the Freshman race at the Red, White & Blue Classic. The next year, she started to attract attention nationwide by kicking off a string of PIAA distance running titles that sets her apart in the record books.
Today (Oct. 16), in front of family and friends, the 17-year-old distance standout announced where she will be running and studying in the fall, verbally committing to the University of Arkansas.
Under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Lance Harter, the Razorback women's cross country program captured the NCAA Division I title in 2019 and was 10th in March in the COVID-delayed 2020 finale. Also one of the nation's track and field powers, the Arkansas women again swept the SEC titles in XC and indoor and outdoor track in 2020-21 and are riding an eight-year winning streak in the conference XC final.
Cochran chose Arkansas after taking official visits during the past month to the Fayetteville campus and North Carolina State while outside Pennsylvania for invitationals in Arizona and North Carolina. The two-time defending PIAA Class AAA XC champion had an unofficial visit to Oregon during the summer track season and also considered North Carolina, among other major college programs.
Although she made it look easy three years ago by winning that Freshman race by more than 2 minutes and having a time that was good enough for second in the varsity 5K, Cochran's rise to the top in Pennsylvania has not been without adversity or interruption.
First, a balky right hip slowed but did not stop her run to the 2019 PIAA XC title at Hershey, the first by a Moon Area runner. Weeks later, however, the Tiger senior had to withdraw from the Foot Locker Nationals after grabbing the 10th and final qualifying spot as the hip injury worsened.
Skipping the indoor season to allow her hip to heal, Cochran and athletes nationwide got an extended break from competition as the global pandemic forced the cancellation of sporting events and seasons. A day before she was to begin defense of her WPIAL and PIAA titles in late October 2020, she was informed that she would have to self-quarantine and miss the District 7 meet because she had been exposed to the virus in class two days earlier due to her proximity to a fellow Moon Area student who tested positive.
A flurry of tests and legal activity cleared the way for Cochran to stand on the starting line at White Oak Park and win another AAA district title by 36 seconds. A week later, she claimed her second state XC title en route to being named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Pennsylvania.
An All-American finish in the 2 mile at the Adidas Indoor Nationals earlier this year was followed by a pair of PIAA outdoor titles in a spectacular double in cold and wet conditions at Shippensburg, with her 1,600 victory coming just over 3 hours after dominating in the 3,200.
In Pennsylvania, Cochran finished the 2021 season with the No. 1 times in the 1,600, mile and 3,000, along with the second-fastest clocking in the 3,200 and the No. 11 effort in the 800 as the senior has won all of the PIAA AAA title races of 1,600 or longer since November 2019.