Former wrestler now a cross-country phenom for PLU

ERIK SWARTOUT; Guest Writer; swartoew@plu.edu

   Running was something sophomore Brad Hodkinson did to stay in shape and cut weight for wrestling in high school. Running is his passion and he excels at the national level. Hodkinson is geared up for this year after coming off a stellar first-year campaign. The engineering major placed fourth at the NCAA West Cross Country Regional, which earned him a trip to the national meet.

Hodkinson’s hope for the team is to compete well at the regional meet and secure a wildcard bid for the national tournament. He hopes his individual success will help play a role in this year’s team success.

“Last year was good because now I can share with my teammates what it takes to get to that level. I can show them the different insights on how to get there as a team and as an individual,” Hodkinson said.

Hodkinson has started the year off strong with a top-ten finish at the Puget Sound Invitational and a top-15 finish at the University of Washington’s Sundodger Invite. The Lutes were ranked as high as eighth in the West Region Poll and won themselves a second place finish at the Northwest Conference Championships behind Hodkinson’s individual first place NWC title finish.

    Hodkinson’s preparation for every meet never changes. He eats his ritual meal (dinosaur oatmeal) while listening to Kanye West. In the back of his mind, he is also visualizing the course and his race strategy.

When asked about his race strategy, his answer was simple: “Get out fast, stay in front, and make a strong push the last mile.”

For those who haven’t watched Hodkinson race, when he says ‘‘strong push,’’ he means an all out sprint.

His final “strong push” may be extraordinary to watch, but if you knew about his work ethic and training, you would understand how he does it. Imagine driving 100 miles from Seattle to the Canadian border. Now imagine running that distance every week for training. This is the commitment it takes and why he excels at what he does.

Sophomore teammate Kyle Rapacz spoke about Brad’s work ethic and what he brings to the team.

“Brad’s incredibly high work ethic is a huge motivator for the rest of us on the cross country team,” Rapacz said. “Brad consistently trains at a high volume and puts forth great effort at every race and practice and does it all with a positive attitude.”

Hodkinson credits wrestling for his ability to endure long periods of hard work. Through a Japanese word, kaizen, he constantly reminds himself just how hard he needs to work. Kaizen is a philosophy that simply means continuous growth and persistent improvement. He has taken kaizen with him in all aspects in life, from the cross country course to the engineering labs.

After college, Hodkinson hopes to become an engineer and qualify for the Boston Marathon. He also wants to pursue triathlons and would love the opportunity to compete at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii.

Behind the leadership and experience of Hodkinson and the other returners, a bid to the national meet is definitely within reach for the Lutes. The team added several strong runners and brought back the core from last year. It will be a busy final month for the Lutes as they try to secure their first goal, a spot at the West Regional. Hodkinson has the confidence that he and his teammates will fulfill their goals.

He stated, “My goal as a team is to grab a wildcard bid for the national meet and then as an individual I’d like to place top-35 at the national meet to become an All-American.”

The Lutes compete in two weeks at the NCAA Division III West Region Championships in Oregon where Hodkinson looks to get closer to achieving both his team goals and personal ones.

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