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Hagan has always been “very independent,” said Gunnels, who describes herself as a “neighborhood mom” in the old railroad town near Auburn University.

“I think she willed this to happen,” said Gunnels. “She’s just that determined. Who would have that that a girl from Opelika, Alabama, would ever do that?”

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Moore is based in Phoenix. Jay Reeves contributed from Birmingham, Ala., and Deepti Hajela from New York City.

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier