Hannah Brunk is taking full advantage of her senior year at Portland High School.
When she’s not blocking shots in soccer or draining shots in basketball and golf, she’s capturing the perfect shot for her budding photography hobby.
Currently, Brunk is starring on the PHS girls basketball team, debuting with a 21-point, seven-rebound performance as the Highlanders defeated Old Saybrook 43-35 on Dec. 14.
The productive Portlander is coming off a fruitful fall in which she protected the net for the girls soccer team that advanced to the Shoreline Champion and she doubled as the official photographer for the Cromwell/Portland football team that won a state championship for the first time since the schools merged on the gridiron.
It turns out that saving a shot in soccer and snapping the perfect shot on the sidelines have similarities.
“I get adrenaline with both, but when I make a save I am automatically proud of myself and when I take a picture I think of [the players] reactions first and I hope they like it,” Brunk said when comparing the two.
Sports and photography are just a few of the many hats that Brunk wears at PHS. She serves as the President of National Honor Society, President of Class Act, Treasurer of the senior class, Secretary for Key Club, and is part of the school’s a cappella group.
Her attraction to athletics started with cheer and dance in grade school before she shifted her priorities to basketball and soccer. She describes herself as “very competitive”, which stems from being in an athletic and ambitious household.
Her older sister Maddie Brunk made headlines on the basketball courts and softball fields at Portland High before graduating in 2020. Her twin brother, Owen Brunk, is a two-time All-State player on the state champion football team.
Capturing photos during her twin’s final high school football season boosted Brunk’s photography venture. She originally started taking free photos for friends as part of her capstone project and then began preserving memories for the football team. The team used the photos on social media and Brunk posted the shots to her official Instagram account @hbrunkphotography.
“My friend had a camera and I would borrow it. I used it so much that I knew I had to buy myself one because I was using hers way too often,” said Brunk, who purchased a Nikon camera in the summer. “I made my Instagram and more people started reaching out to me. Then people in school that I had never really talked to reached out to me when word got out that I wasn’t charging anything.”
She then received her first photo shoot request from outside the community when a student from Haddam-Killingworth reached out, promoting Brunk to describe herself as “a kid on Christmas.”
Owen, who is a minute older, then asked his slightly younger siblin to take photos during the games.
“I did one game to test it out and I loved it,” said Brunk, who received positive feedback from the football community. “Parents would come up and thank me. I was doing it for other people, but I also loved doing it for myself. The fact that I was able to do that for others sealed the deal for me. It was awesome.”
She found it difficult at times to watch her brother’s football games, especially the championship game, through a lens. However, she got satisfaction from knowing she was capturing small moments that will last forever.
The relationship between the twins is both competitive and encouraging.
“I think it pushes us because we are so competitive. It’s helped me tremendously,” said Brunk. “He pushes me, he wants me to do my best and academically I am very involved with the school and he sees that and wants to get more involved. I think we complement each other very well.”
Brunk’s vibrant personality allows to adapt to any situation. In soccer, she started as a field player before realizing she was a natural in goal
“I am a very vocal person and being the goalie I was like the quarterback,” stated Brunk. “I felt it better suited me because I was able to communicate with everyone.”
She created her own picturesque moment during the Shoreline tournament when she, with the help of a stout defense, blanked previously undefeated Cromwell (1-0) to advance to the Shoreline championship game.
“We have been rivals with Cromwell forever and when you walk into those games you want to win,” recalled Brunk, who outdueled Cromwell’s All-State goalie Lily Kenney, “[Lily] is just amazing and going into that game I knew I had to step it up and be the best that I can be.”
Brunk hopes to create even more memorable moments on the basketball courts this winter before teeing off one last time for the reigning Division IV state champion Highlanders golf team in the spring. Brunk said she uses the golf as a way to unwind after hectic fall and winter seasons.
The multitalented Brunk hasn’t made any college plans yet, but is leaning towards schools in the south to major in business or marketing, and possibly a minor in photography. Her parents, Earl and Alissa, have always encouraged their kids to explore all the option available to them.
“My dad has always said he wanted us to experience a whole new life after high school. We want to experience something else because we know we can come back,” said Brunk.
No matter where she ends up, Brunk will be taking advantage of every moment and capturing those moments on her camera.
“I never thought I would have taken as good of quality pictures as I did and when I do it’s a great feeling,” stated Brunk.
Hannah Brunk with her parents, Alissa and Earl, and twin brother Owen following the Cromwell/Portland football championship triumph
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin