SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Natasha Hastings, one of the top 400-meter runners in the world, delivered a very inspiring and uplifting message to the Union Catholic cross-country teams before they went out on their training runs on Saturday morning.

Hastings, who won gold medals on the 4x400 meter relay for the U.S. in both the 2008 and 2016 Olympics and has captured nine World Championship gold medals in the 4x400, came to Union Catholic, an Under Armour “Highlight’’ School, to promote an event she’s hosting next month for girls between ages 12-17. It’s called Tea Time with Tasha, scheduled for Oct. 28 at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, NY.

With nearly 50 members of the UC cross-country teams gathered next to the track behind the school, Hastings spoke for about 20 minutes as she touched on several aspects of running, including confidence, nerves, training, pressure, nutrition, strategy, self-esteem, body image, and her own personal experiences as a young runner and a professional. After she spoke, Hastings graciously posed for lots of photos with all the UC runners.

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The 31-year-old Hastings, who was roommates with Union Catholic Olympian Sydney McLaughlin at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said Tea Time with Tasha and her message is all about helping young women in sports be comfortable in their own skin.

“My main message is I want young women to know they aren't alone,’’ said Hastings, who lives in Austin, Texas, and plans to retire after the 2020 Olympic Games. “I went through body image and awkwardness. I went through being a loner because I was so focused and driven. I want young girls to know they have a safe space for them to ask whatever they want to ask and feel comfortable."

"I want them to know what I went through when I was their age and dealing with the pressure, confidence and nerves as I became a pro. I want to pour everything I can back into the sport and sharing my experiences I gained from traveling the world and building self worth.’’

Union Catholic sophomore Ashleigh Patterson said listening to Hastings made her think.

“A lot of us work hard now, but to get to the level she is at it will take a lot of sacrifices and even more dedication,’’ said Patterson. “She talked about how you have to be confident in who you are and don’t let things get to you. I definitely plan to go to her event on Oct. 28, and I’m very thankful to Union Catholic for providing this opportunity.’’

UC sophomore Leena Morant said that the message Hastings delivered made an impact.

“She very influential, and I learned a lot by listening to her,’’ said Morant. “She explained how you have to know how to mentally overcome obstacles that come your way. It was really cool to hear her talk about how she was once in our place as a high school runner and now look what she’s become. It was very inspiring to hear her message. I think we all learned something from her. She definitely made an impact on all of us. We all really look up to her, and can one day try to become just like her.’’

Morant said she and her teammates didn’t know Hastings was going to be at their practice until yesterday.

“It was a big surprise to all of us,’’ said Morant. “I’m so glad she came and it’s so awesome that Union Catholic made this happen for us.’’

UC head cross-country coach Mike McCabe was thrilled that Hastings spoke to his teams.

“I felt she gave a great message today for young girls and young athletes on how to gain confidence and learn how to adjust to your body and deal with the mental aspect of running,’’ said McCabe. “It was a terrific message. I’m so happy she could come and so glad Under Armour and Union Catholic could make this work.’’ is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.

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