When Tara Hamstra's head hits the pillow at night, it doesn't take her long to fall asleep.
"My friends make fun of me," she said. "I go to bed at 8, 9 o'clock."
It only stands to reason, because when the Kouts senior is awake, she only knows one speed.
A 3.9 student who ranks fourth in her class, Hamstra takes all the advanced placement classes the school offers. She's also in choir, the Kouts Singers, band and jazz band, where she plays the trumpet, and is active at her church, Kouts First Baptist, with the youth group and Bible study.
"She needs to learn the word no," coach Pam Thurner said with a laugh. "She's a hard worker, a real go-getter. She's always been one of those kids to do everything, somebody for the younger kids to look up to."
With all that, Hamstra still has enough energy to be a successful distance runner. A three-time all-Porter County Conference performer, she reached semistate last season and is a contender to qualify for state this fall.
"Running has kept me in shape," Hamstra said. "I love the competition of it. It's the only thing that keeps me going. God made me fast, and it would be a waste not to use the gift He's given me. Sometimes, it's very crazy. But I've learned that if you put God as your first priority, the center of your life, He helps everything else fall in place."
Her parents, Gene and Lisa, also instilled a strong work ethic at an early age that works hand in hand with a sport like cross country.
"Everything in life requires discipline," Hamstra said. "In running, you have to push yourself. It hurts. If you're not hurting, you're not gaining anything. It teaches you to do your best in everything."
With the Jordans, Chester and Hanaway, now running in college, Hamstra is the top returning runner in the PCC. She'll learn in the coming weeks what it's like to be a front-runner, being the chasee rather than the chaser.
"She ran real well all summer long," Thurner said. "It makes an awful big difference when they want it. The biggest thing will be to keep her healthy."
Hamstra's done the math, subtracting all the seniors who placed ahead of her at the 2010 New Prairie Semistate, where she finished 33rd. If all goes well, she knows she's in the mix this season for the top 15, which would earn her a trip to state in Terre Haute.
"That's the next step," Hamstra said. "Sectionals, regionals, semistate. I've been moving up one each year. I'm right in there. If I push myself, I think I can do it. It's very realistic. I just have to keep working at it."
And when she gets there, chances are she'll be watching the movie, "Chariots of Fire," beforehand for inspiration.
"I don't remember his name," Hamstra said. "But the main character says, 'I believe God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.'"