The high school cross country season is well under way and, as usual, central Ohio is blessed with some knockout runners.

The high school cross country season is well under way and, as usual, central Ohio is blessed with some knockout runners.

In girls competition, Jessica Hoover of Hilliard Davidson, Megan Gaysuna of Granville, Bethany Yunker of Upper Arlington and Mirra Galbreath of New Albany have had strong showings, and so has Grandview senior Hannah Stefanoff.

Stefanoff won the Granville Invitational and the Canal Winchester Invitational. In her only other meet, the prestigious Tiffin Carnival, Stefanoff was second to defending Division III state champion Tammy Berger of Versailles.

At Tiffin, Stefanoff finished in 18 minutes, 19 seconds, her personal best and the fastest time among central Ohio girls so far this year.

Stefanoff has some impressive credentials in distance running. As a sophomore, she finished fourth in the 3,200 meters at the Division III state track meet and finished second at state last spring.

In cross country, Stefanoff finished fifth at state a year ago. She said all of that success is the reason she has come off the starting line so quickly this year.

"After finishing second at Ohio State last spring, I finally think I realized that I had the capability of reaching the top in my races," Stefanoff said. "I gained a lot of confidence through that race, but I also definitely want to continue to improve and I clearly understand that only comes through very hard work. I have been running since I was in the seventh grade and lived in the Dayton area at the time.

"I really didn't know what to expect when I went out to run in my first-ever race and I was sort of surprised when I finished fifth in that first race. Ever since that time, I have loved to run and love to compete. Running is an enjoyable thing for me and I run around 40 miles a week until we are close to our state championship meet, and that is the only time I taper off.

"I think in our sport it is sometimes hard to see progress from year to year. You are always chasing your personal best in time and it becomes frustrating at times to not reach it. I have been fortunate this fall to reap the benefits of all my hard work with my best times ever and it feels so good to reach those times. But regardless of my times, I know very well that I have lots and lots of work to do to improve and achieve other goals that I have set for myself."

Mentally, Stefanoff said things have gotten better as she has grown with the sport.

"I always feel pressure when I run, but it isn't from the competitors I am running against, it is instead pressure I put on myself to do better," she said. "This is the difference between athletes in team and individual sports, because my success comes directly from my efforts and it is totally my responsibility.

"Running has done so much for me. It has made me a stronger person and the work ethic I have had to develop has carried over to my life in school. Also, running has made me appreciate the work of others. When I see successful people, I know that they reached that position from working hard and I respect that greatly."

Stefanoff is a prime example of the old formula: dedication and great effort equals success.

I'll see you at a meet.