Engineers largely agonize over changing project variables.
In this case, it was Pacific Lutheran University sophomore Brad Hodkinson, a nuclear engineering major, who devised a master plan on how to race at last weekend’s Northwest Conference cross country championships in Oregon.
One of the race favorites, the Snohomish product had planned on sticking with the lead pack for half the race, then increasing the pace to see how others would respond.
Instead, he decided to change his tactic early in the race.
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“In the first couple hundred meters, I went my pace and nobody was around me,” Hodkinson said. “So I took off. And that is not normally what I would do. I worried about dying, or my legs turning to jello and not being able to keep that pace.”
Hodkinson kept up the fast pace just fine, becoming the first PLU runner since Ryan Pauling in 1997 to capture the conference crown.
The Lutes’ top racer covered the 8-kilometer at Willamette Mission State Park in 24 minutes, 56.3 seconds — good enough for a 34-second triumph over Patrick Loftus of Willamette University.
The margin of victory likely would have been greater if Hodkinson had not missed a turn on the course. He went straight ahead, and it ended up costing him about 20 seconds.
The Lutes placed second as a team with primarily sophomores and freshmen.
“This really is a good building block,” Hodkinson said.
Hodkinson has always taken pride in his ability to solve riddles with sound logic.
It really took off in middle school when he bought a Rubik’s Cube.
“My sister came in and mixed it up,” Hodkinson said. “I got mad at her and took off all the stickers (to fix it).”
Hodkinson ended up ruining that Rubik’s Cub, but got a new one, and learned quickly how to solve it in less than 20 seconds.
“We went to a cabin for a week in Leavenworth, and I figured out my own speed-solving method,” he said. “And because I could do it, my family saw that, and for next Christmas, all I got was more (advanced) Rubik’s Cubes and other games like that. I must have 50 of them in my room.”
Needless to say, Hodkinson has been an astute tactician in whatever sport he’s played. He advance to the state level in three sports at Snohomish High School — cross country, wrestling and track and field. And with a local club called Blue Fire Fitness, he’s even learned how to efficiently race in triathlons.
He’s applied that same type of mental discipline to this stellar sophomore season at PLU.
“My biggest gain or improvement has been my time management and how to prioritize things,” Hodkinson said. “I’ve had to realize academics come first, and that if I stay ahead, I can focus more on training.”
The NCAA Division III West Regional meet is set for Nov. 12 in Salem, Oregon.
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