There comes a point in the careers of many high school athletes when they realize that their days are beginning to count down.
It happened for Chesterton senior Hannah Hoffmann.
"It hits you," Hoffmann said. "It's my last year. I want to make it worth it."
In the summer, Hoffmann came to Trojans coach Brian Carden and told him as much.
"She wanted to get better and do what she needed to do to get better," Carden said. "She had a great summer, and it's obviously showed. She's become a more confident runner."
A consistent scorer for Chesterton as a sophomore and a junior, Hoffmann has emerged as the Trojans' lead runner this season.
"I finally figured out what I needed to do," Hoffmann said. "You've got to find your limits. I worked harder. I made sure I was there every day in the summer. I really wanted some (personal bests). I had goals to be up with the top girls on the team. I'm trying to be up (front) more instead of settling into one spot."
Carden recalls a particular Saturday morning practice when Hoffmann showed up with her mom resembling death warmed over.
"Her mom said she made her bring her," Carden said. "She said she was fine, but she looked horrible. She had a fever. I sent her home. I'm not that mean of a guy to make her run."
Would Hoffmann have done the same thing in past seasons?
"Probably," she said, "but I wouldn't have had quite the urgency to run."
Hoffmann discovered that urgency as a sophomore. A swimmer as a younger child, she first ran in intermediate school and then again in eighth grade, but chose not to come out for the cross country team as a freshman.
"I like to do a variety of stuff," said Hoffmann, who is a top student, plays the clarinet in band and is involved in 4H and her church, St. Paul Lutheran. "You just have to make it all fit in, move stuff around to make sure it would work out. I did track my freshman year and enjoyed that so I wanted to do cross country again. I missed it."
As a sophomore, she was the No. 2 runner for Chesterton in the New Prairie Semistate, where the Trojans finished seventh, one spot out of state qualifying. Last fall, Hoffmann was fourth on the team in the meet, and the Trojans again came up one place shy of going to Terre Haute, this time missing by eight points.
"It's definitely been weighing on our minds," Carden said. "We've come close. This year, we're trying not to focus on it so much. We're looking at more than, oh, we've got to make it to state, just concentrate meet to meet, trying to get a good group running together."
Hoffmann, who was voted a team captain, has been and will have to be a big part of that dynamic as the calendar flips to October and her last postseason begins.
"It would be such a huge thing for us," Hoffmann said of advancing to state. "I've worked three years, some girls, four. We've come this far. We know we can do it this year."