Senior cross country runner Hannah Stefanoff’s college career reached its peak when she won the individual Sun Belt Conference championship. Stefanoff posted a career best 16:57.7 in her victory. The victory made Stefanoff the second panther to win the conference tournament in the last three years.
The Signal: What does it feel like being a conference champion?
Hannah Stefanoff: It’s pretty nice. I guess it makes me realize that hard work really does pay off. I guess it’s nice to finally see your work because you can visualize your work through actually winning something.
TS: What was your reaction to winning the Sun Belt?
HS: I guess I was kind of after the race was like, I thought maybe I was dreaming. Because, when I thought about it that night before the race that night when I was sleeping, it was exactly how I visualized it, it went perfectly. Then I was like, ‘Wait, maybe I’m going to wake up in my hotel room.’ I kept asking my mom, ‘Is this real life?’ I guess, yeah, I want to make sure it’s real.
TS: How did your family and friends react to you winning the Sun Belt?
HS: Everyone was really excited. It was really cool. Because there would be people I haven’t talked to in years that were texting me or writing on my Facebook wall. So it was really cool to see that people still support me that I haven’t talked to in a while.
TS: How has life on campus changed now that you are a Sun Belt champion?
HS: Not much. Unfortunately, cross country is a low profile sport. So, I mean whatever.
TS: Is the Sun Belt championship any sweeter because it’s your senior year?
HS: Yeah I think it is. No matter if I would have won it when I was younger it would have been just as exciting. But, I think maybe it’s a little cooler just because I can end on that note. Just realize I didn’t end with any regrets I guess and I really did do what I set out to do.
TS: What kind of expectations did you set for yourself coming into your senior year?
HS: My top goal was definitely to win a conference title and just improve. Because I mean that’s all you can ask every year is to improve, so luckily I did all those things.
TS: What would you say are your two best memories of your time at Georgia State?
HS: I would say — this is going to sound so lame and I’m going to get made fun of for this, but — one of my best memories would be finally getting through chemistry. Because that was like pulling teeth. And then it would be a tie between this individual title and then when we won as a team. Winning as was really cool.
TS: What lessons have you learned while at Georgia State?
HS: I have definitely learned that it’s important to get out of your comfort zone I guess. Because, coming here is definitely way different from where I come from. There’s so many different people. You can’t really get the most out of anything until you let yourself out of your comfort zone. So, I’ve really opened up I guess in that sense. I guess I came in and I was super shy, so I’ve got better with that. Atlanta and Georgia State taught me that.
TS: How have you matured and changed during your time at Georgia State?
HS: I like to meet people more I guess now and I’m more open to things.
TS: What will you savior the most for the rest of your senior year of college?
HS: I think I’ll really remember the people I’ve met. Just the people that really believed in me. Whether it be my team or people I’ve met here. And regardless of win or lose in meets and stuff it really was more about the people I was surrounded by.
TS: What are your career plans after graduation?
HS: That’s kind of a scary question. I’m still undecided about that. But I chose Biology because I knew it was a pretty broad topic. So, I definitely want to go into that field. I have interest in genetic things, but I’m not really sure. But, I’m definitely going to go to grad school and maybe I’ll figure it out there.
TS: What advice would you have for young cross country runners coming to Georgia State that you wish someone would have given you when you came to Georgia State?
HS: I guess, I would, because I spent so much time worrying about things that happened in the past or stressing over things that weren’t really that big. Like something that already happened, like, I had a bad race and then you think about it for two weeks and then you let it run your mind and you lose sleep over it. I guess I would just say you have so many chances, and you’re here for a reason, and everyone has a bad day or bad race or even a bad test in class. I guess I would just say to just look ahead and don’t look behind. Because, so many people just spend time looking back and before you know it it’s your last year and you’re like I should have just savored what was ahead instead.
TS: Describe your Georgia State career in 3 words.
HS: Fast. Cultured. Memorable.
TS: What were some of your hobbies back home?
HS: In high school I went to a very small school. My graduating class was only 86 people. So there wasn’t really a lot to do. And, like, our activity of choice would to be like going to stand in a parking lot and talk. That’s really all anyone ever did.
TS: Who has impacted your life the most growing up?
HS: Definitely my mom. I would say. Because I lived with just my mom.
TS: How did your hometown make you who you are now?
HS: I think moving to a smaller school. It made me value close relationships better. Because everyone from there still keeps in contact with everyone since it was such a close knit place. So I think that it made me appreciate the people I meet more.
TS: How big was cross country at home?
HS: Cross country is bigger, actually in Ohio than it is in Georgia. I think we have one of the biggest state meets for high school. So, people actually care about distance running there.
TS: How did you first get introduced to cross country?
HS: I think in fourth grade. In gym class I was pretty fast and beating all the boys. And, so, my gym teacher told me to go run this race that was against all the schools who would come together and it was a mile. I did pretty well and so then I just kept running.
TS: How is your hometown different from Atlanta?
HS: It’s really close to the city of Columbus. So I got a taste of the city. But I would say it was different because I got both sides, I got a city and then I got a small community. I guess I was exposed to a smaller area than Atlanta.
TS: Why did you choose Georgia State?
HS: I think it was just because I thought it was a really good opportunity to get a chance to see someplace new. And I felt like it gets harder probably as I get more established and older so I might as well take this opportunity.
TS: What other schools were interested in you?
HS: Just mostly Ohio schools. Like Xavier and OU (Ohio University) and UD (University of Dayton) which is in Dayton.
TS: What hobbies do you have in your free time?
HS: (Laughing) Probably lame things, like sleeping and just watching movies. And then anything lazy I don’t really want to do physical activity in my free time.