There is a certain peace Hannah Hartzell feels when she runs.

There is a certain peace Hannah Hartzell feels when she runs.

"It's not just the competing," said the junior on the Olentangy Orange High School girls track and field team. "When you see me out there running, I really do love it. It became something that would comfort me."

In the Stallion Invitational on April 14 at DeSales, Hartzell won the 1,600 meters (5 minutes, 18.55 seconds) and placed second in the 3,200 (11:01) behind Canal Winchester's Kayla Scott (10:57.13).

It was an important milestone for Hartzell considering a year earlier during that meet's first event - the 3,200 - she failed to hold a large lead and finished second (11:26) behind London's Sarra Taylor (11:24.01).

"It felt like I was running as hard as I could, but I wasn't going anywhere," Hartzell said. "She just blew past me. People started to notice there was something really wrong (with me)."

Orange coach Ingrid Simpson told Hartzell that she couldn't compete until she was treated for what was diagnosed as anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by low body weight and a fear of weight gain.

"She loves running so much. It was heartbreaking to be the bad guy and say, 'Hey, your season is done,'" Simpson said. "I told her, 'Your time will come. I just need you to get healthy first.'"

"It was terrible, but I had to quit," Hartzell said. "It was a really hard time, but it strengthened my faith and my desire to get out there and run."

Toward the end of the 2010 cross country season, Simpson said she could see Hartzell was sick. She was losing weight and dropped to 91 pounds, about 20 pounds under her optimal weight.

Still, Hartzell was convinced she was fine.

"I wanted to get better at running and I thought (losing weight) was just a matter of self-discipline," Hartzell said. "I was pushing myself. I started over-exercising. I tried to convince everyone things were fine.

"My coach and my parents got involved and we realized that this was not at all normal."

Hartzell stayed at Nationwide Children's Hospital for a week as doctors monitored her heart rate and nutritionists made sure she ate properly. After being released, she began six weeks of outpatient treatment through the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington.

"I actually met quite a few distance runners there," Hartzell said. "That was really encouraging."

Simpson said anorexia is not uncommon among distance runners.

"Distance runners are high-achieving, competitive individuals," Simpson said. "Often they're burning so many calories and don't realize how many extra calories their bodies need to maintain their weight."

Hartzell began training again last summer and had a breakthrough season in cross country last fall. She was a Division I district and regional runner-up and placed 33rd in the state meet.

In the Division I indoor state track meet March 17 at the University of Akron, she placed second in the 3,200 (11:04.75) behind champion Alexa Aughenbaugh of Toledo Notre Dame Academy (11:02.55)

On April 7 in the Lexington Invitational, Hartzell was first in the 3,200 (11:17.65) and second in the 1,600 (5:14.45).

Hartzell wants to help others going through the same struggles she endured.

"The details of my story are gritty and it's a hard story to tell," she said. "But what I like to tell people is, 'I went through this and I am on the other side. You have to know who you are so you don't get caught believing all those lies.'

"What I have been through has strengthened my trust in God. I know who I am now and that doesn't depend on how well I run or finish."