Hannah Shank never gave clearing a hurdle much thought until last spring.
The senior for the Northridge High School girls track and field team was working on going from four strides to three between hurdles when she clipped one, losing her balance and tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during her fall to the ground.
"I guess you would say I had a pretty big hurdle to clear," said Shank, who was a Division II regional qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles as a sophomore, when she finished seventh in a personal-best 47.06 seconds. "It was more of a mental thing than a physical thing. I just didn't want that to happen again."
To better prepare for this season, Shank participated in indoor track during the winter and reached the Division II-III state meet March 16 at the University of Akron with the 800 relay. She joined junior Hayley Menix, senior Caitlyn Tulloss and sophomore Ellie Shedloski to finish 10th (1:51.75) in the event.
During indoor training, Shank started the process of approaching a hurdle, but it wasn't a smooth reunion.
"I probably ran up (to the hurdle) a good five times before I actually went over it," she said. "Coach (Mike) Dudgeon was helping me and he wanted me to ease into it. He only let me do it a couple of times and then stopped for the day. He really helped me get through that."
Dudgeon said there was no need to rush Shank's return to hurdles.
"We took baby steps with her during indoor season," said Dudgeon, a former Northridge coach who led the cross country program for 32 years and the track program for 26. "We got some padded hurdles that she could use so she could get her confidence up a bit."
That confidence has grown rapidly while competing outdoors this spring. On April 26 in the Millersport Laker Invitational, Shank won the 100 hurdles (17.62) and 300 hurdles (52.43) and joined Tulloss, Menix and Shedloski on two first-place relays -- the 400 (program-record 52.2) and 800 (1:50.7).
Those performances earned her Most Valuable Performer honors at the meet.
"Hannah is a competitor, that's the bottom line," coach Jeff Dingess said. "She has the will to win and the work ethic to go along with it."
Shank had knee surgery April 30, 2012, and was sidelined for eight months. That didn't sit well with her.
"I hated every second of it," she said of the layoff. "I'm hyperactive and I can't sit still, but I learned a lot, including patience and to be grateful for what I have."
Shank and the Vikings will compete in a pair of honor roll meets this week -- the Licking County meet Wednesday, May 8, at Granville and Knox County's honor roll meet, the SpecTRACKular, on Friday, May 10, at Fredericktown.
In 2011, Shank was fourth in the 300 hurdles (49.6) and eighth in the 100 hurdles (18.27) in the Licking County meet. She was third in both the 100 hurdles (17.54) and 300 hurdles (49.19) in the SpecTRACKular.
"The 300 (hurdles) is my better event because I can use my speed between hurdles," said Shank, who has a 4.2 GPA and plans to run track at Otterbein University and major in nursing. "And right now the (sprint) relays have been a big help. (Those events) have helped me build my leg muscles back up."
Shank's goal is to perform in the hurdles like she did two seasons ago.
"My dad (Denny) told me that he'd be happy if I could just make it one lap around the track," she said. "I've been able to do more than that. Now I want to win."