Sophia Stone’s rise as a cross country runner could be described as meteoric, or exceptional.
Perhaps the latter is a more fitting description of the Pacific Palisades, Calif. native.
Only 18, Stone is a junior studying biology and psychology in Mary Baldwin College’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, a program that accelerates the college experience for young and bright students. PEG students bypass some or all of their high school grades to pursue a college degree.
Stone is also a member of Mary Baldwin’s cross country team.
Today is an important day for Stone. She will compete as one of 280 runners in the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
She earned that right by winning the NCAA South/Southeast Women’s Championship earlier this month.
An All-American cross country runner, Stone paused on Thursday to talk about her quest to win the national championship. The event will mean traveling over a course 3.75 miles.
“I will take what I have learned in the practices. I like to have fun with the race. I will go out there and do my best,’’ she said. Stone said she wants to “make my coach, my family and my school proud.”
Stone is only in her fourth year of running. She realized her athletic abilities were not best suited to the traditional team sports. “I didn’t realize how little talent I had with anything with a ball,’’ she said.
She began running in the ninth grade, and has not stopped since.
Stone credits her coaches with the success she has achieved at Mary Baldwin, saying they “won’t let us cut a workout short.”
And she finds Staunton a great training venue. “Staunton has a lot of hills and that makes you pretty fast,’’ she said.
Stone said today is less about just winning. She is anxious to do her best and at the same time “celebrate everyone’s achievement’’ at today’s event.