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07/25/2023 11:17 PM

Hedges A Reliable Runner for H-K Cross Country, Track Teams

After playing soccer for Haddam-Killingworth, now-senior Luke Hedges joined the Cougars’ outdoor track and cross country teams in his sophomore and junior years, respectively, and has become a reliable runner in distance and relay events. Photo courtesy of Luke Hedges

While running may be something any average person can do as a hobby, it takes total, undying dedication 365 days a year to truly be proficient, and Luke Hedges has taken that to heart and been true to the task by going the distance.

The incoming H-K senior first played soccer for the Cougars before being drawn to the outdoor circuit of track the spring of his sophomore year, and then he was so enticed by the activities of it that he stayed in his running lane by joining the cross country club last fall and returning to outdoor track this past spring–establishing himself as a dynamic distance runner in the mile, two-mile, and 4x800 relay events along the track.

“Injuries have been a problem for the H-K teams recently, especially last cross country season, so I just make sure to stay healthy because my body is still somewhat new to running,” says Luke. “I make sure to eat right, get the right amount of sleep, train all year long, and warm up before running.”

Luke may have been a late comer to the starting line of his racing endeavors, though H-K cross country and track Head Coach Matt Diglio details that he has more than made up for lost time by being a passionate and persistent pupil of the sport while carving out camaraderie amongst competitors.

“Luke joined the spring track team at the end of his sophomore year. He experienced some success that season and made the decision to switch from soccer to cross country last fall,” says Diglio. “While his first few seasons were a learning experience for him, he really embraced running and bought into the program and really became a sponge in regards to constantly learning about the sport, training, and making connections with other runners in the conference and state. In fact, one of my biggest challenges with him is pulling back on his training as he constantly wants to do more. He is a very hard worker, is extremely dedicated, and I am looking forward to his senior year in cross country and track.”

Getting that essential stride succinct and locked in has been an added asset for Luke’s adjustment to the sport of competitive running. He adds that the regimen regulated by his coaches put him on the right path.

“Running-wise, my form has gotten better, and I have gotten a pretty good form down,” Luke says. “And that is because my coaches helped me, plus my training schedule. The coaches gave me a training schedule to start off, but I have more freedom to train over the summer, and I have encouraged my teammates to do so as well.”

When it comes to pacing himself for either a short sprint or marathon-long haul, Luke prefers to stray from the pack of runners and establish himself as a lone wolf in the running lanes.

“Honestly, I have always liked running the mile more because it is shorter,” says Luke. “For distance events, I need to reserve myself and my energy. I need to be able to last the whole race. I like to lead in races and just run on my own and then pace myself. I found that sometimes when I run in a pack, when the pack slows down, I notice myself slowing down.”

In the process of switching from the soccer pitch to the starting blocks, Luke learned the time and effort that must be logged during the dog days of sweltering summer heat in order to record personal-best times in the fall along the cross country course.

“Soccer is a one-season sport, but with running, you need to be in it all year-round in order to compete at a high level,” Luke says. “A lot of my friends who do soccer and running also do the same with training throughout the year. There is a big difference in running between the kids that run all year and the ones that do not.”

As Luke makes his way into the final leg of his run as a student-athlete, he is looking to stay on track with his legs and the books. He explains that the cross country squad coming up just short of Shoreline Conference and state crowns last fall is just that much more of an incentive to hit the ground running before the opening bell.

“Being able to stay on top of my schoolwork and my training are big priorities for me. We could have done a lot better last season, so I have big goals for myself and the team,” Luke says. “Personally, I am motivated and excited to get the year started. We have had very good attendance with our summer practice sessions, and we are all really excited for the upcoming season.”