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Marquette senior Luke Hill is the 2012 NewsTribune Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. He had the area’s best postseason, including a regional championship and a ninth-place finish at the Class 1A State Meet. NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
OTTAWA — The summer before his junior year, Marquette senior Luke Hill went for a run along the canal with his older brother Buck along with other former Crusader cross country greats Evan Darm and Nick Skromme.
While talking, Skromme wonder aloud who would be on the Mount Rushmore of Marquette cross country.
“It was such a cool experience just talking with all the older guys because there are just so many kids who’ve gone on from (Marquette) to run at the collegiate level and have actually done a lot of damage there and were good runners in college,” Luke Hill said.
The foursome never settled on which runners would make the monument — and Luke wasn’t given a say as the youngest — but Luke knows who he would put up there.
“If it was up to me, I’d have to say Evan, James (Weissensel), Nick Skromme and my brother,” Luke Hill said. “You look at Mount Rushmore, it’s who built the country. As far as who built the program, you have to say those guys helped build the program.”
While he didn’t put himself up there, Luke Hill certainly has a case to be on the Mount Rushmore of Marquette cross country.
Hill matched the program’s best-ever state finish by placing ninth to tie Skromme, and he did so in a school-record time of 15:07, beating Darm’s mark of 15:13. He also won the Class 1A St. Bede Regional and placed second at the Oregon Sectional.
For all his accomplishments, Hill is the 2012 NewsTribune Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, joining Weissensel as Crusaders who have won the award.
“I think each of those runners in the past five years has brought a little something different,” Marquette coach Dr. Dan Cheatham said about where Hill ranks among the Crusader greats. “He’s right with Weissensel and Skromme and Darm. I don’t think you can separate who’s better. They’re just different runners.”
Hill didn’t feel he was an elite runner before this season, but after a conversation with Buck while hanging out by a bonfire early in the summer, Hill decided to go all out with workouts.
Hill, who was a NewsTribune All-Area pick as a junior, logged lots of miles, eventually building up to an 84-mile week in his final week of the summer.
“It really (paid off),” said Hill, who placed second at the Seneca Twilight in the Woods Invitational and the Peoria Heights Patriot Invite. “It really showed me I could be on the top level because my sophomore and junior years I was always an OK, decent runner but never on that top level. I really feel like I was lucky enough to stay healthy and because I stayed healthy, I was able to do big mileage to put myself at that level.”
Hill’s path to the top began by running the mile roads through the cornfields of his family farm.
He got into running because of his mother Kellee, who has run four marathons, and Buck, who excelled at Marquette before running at St. Xavier University.
“(My success has) nothing to do with me,” said Luke Hill, who plans to run at a four-year college. “I’m going to have to go with my brother and my mother. It seems like they’ve been my coaches for my whole life. If I didn’t have those two people in my life, I don’t know where I’d be from a running standpoint. I have to give them all the credit to them because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have trained as hard, I wouldn’t be in cross country and I wouldn’t have a lot of things that I did have.”
And he wouldn’t be among the Marquette greats.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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