Elizabeth Hinkle remembers her last high school race.
Pardon the recent Hudson graduate if she prefers to forget it.
"I was overthinking and mentally stressed out," Hinkle said. "I was so confident. I was expecting to do well."
Hinkle is referring to the 2018 Division I state cross country meet, which took place last November at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
While her 42nd-place time of 18:58.3 was certainly respectable, it was much slower than what the former Lady Explorer three-sport star envisioned.
And it was the first time Hinkle did not cross the finish line before any of her teammates during the fall season.
"It was disappointing to train so long and hard and not come out on top," she said. "Overall, though, it was amazing that we did as well as we did."
Hinkle can reminisce fondly about the final year of her high school cross country career despite her off-day in Hebron. Thanks mainly to her efforts throughout the 2017 season, Hudson was one of the best teams in the state.
The Lady Explorers finished fourth at the Division I state competition after placing 16th the previous year.
And there is plenty of good news for the relentless perfectionist in her future.
Hinkle’s running career is not over. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Hinkle, a three-time state qualifier in cross country, plans to continue sprinting long distances for at least four more years.
The talented 18-year old recently signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic, cross country and track and field careers at Butler University in Indianapolis.
Hinkle, who plans to major in health science, chose Butler over John Carroll University in University Heights and Ithaca College in New York.
"I had visited a bunch of schools," she said. "I liked Butler’s campus, but it was not my favorite. When I talked to the cross country coach, I learned more about what they had to offer.
"I was interested in a lot of the programs they had and the internship opportunities were really cool."
Hinkle was a bit skeptical about joining Butler for another reason, too.
Since Butler, which competes in the Big East Conference, competes against Division I opponents, Hinkle wondered if such a significant leap to the big time would be a bit too overwhelming for her.
"I was intimidated by Division I," she said. "Thankfully, I found a program that was very intense, but it’s not like it would kill you. It also met my academic priorities, which I appreciated."
While running fast is her bread and butter, Hinkle showed her vast array of talents during her days with the Lady Explorers.
She was an All-Ohio midfielder who led the Hudson girls lacrosse team to its second Division I state semifinal appearance in three years last month.
Hinkle also earned Suburban League National Conference honors for her role as the starting point guard of the Lady Explorers basketball team during the winter.
Hinkle certainly enjoyed playing both of those sports. However, don’t expect her to pick up a stick or an orange, round ball any time soon.
Hinkle’s main focus now is moving her legs as fast as she can for long distances and let a stopwatch decide how much progress she makes.
"I love lacrosse," Hinkle said. "It’s so hard to give up. I’m going to miss basketball, too, but not as much as lacrosse. It was fun to be with the basketball team. It gave me something to do during the winter."
Hudson head girls cross country coach Megan Petraska worked with Hinkle for just a few months.
Nonetheless, the talented teenager made a lasting impression on the first-year coach.
"Not only is Liz really talented, but she works really hard," Petraska said. "She has that rare combination of natural talent and the work ethic to be the best. He perseverance and tenacity allow her to be the best she can be."
Hinkle most likely won’t be an overnight sensation for Butler the moment she steps on the 3.1-mile course or the track.
And that’s just fine with her.
"My first couple of years, I’ll build my stamina and running skills up. My coach said I will be able to really flourish during my junior and senior years.
"I led the pack throughout high school. It will be good to run against people faster than me. I’m good at pushing myself."
Hinkle said she planned to take a short break before she moves into some hard-core training for the upcoming fall season.
She also will spend plenty of time appreciating her days at a place that played a huge role in her rise to stardom.
"It really hasn’t hit me," Hinkle said. "I appreciated being an athlete at Hudson, which has been very supportive. It is amazing to be part of such great teams.
"I’m nervous and excited. I’m just ready for the next chapter of my life."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.