Hughes bound for MTSU

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Every little kid who has an interest in sports dreams of signing a Division I scholarship.
   For one Happy Valley High School athlete, that dream finally came true on Wednesday afternoon.
   Happy Valley track and cross country standout David Hughes signed with Sun Belt Conference power Middle Tennessee State yesterday at the school's library.
   "I've enjoyed every bit of cross country that I have run in my four years, and I just wanted to continue it on in college," Hughes said. "It's something I'll probably do the rest of my life. It's a competitive college.
   It was a dream of mine since my freshman year to go to a D-I school."
   Hughes, who won the state cross country meet last fall, is the favorite to win the one mile and two mile at the state track meet next month.
   When he starts school at MTSU, Hughes will most likely run the 3,000 and 5,000 meter races.
   Hughes was attracted to MTSU from the start. Hughes felt like the program was the perfect fit for him.
   "They've got the greatest facilities," Hughes said. "Coach (Dean) Hayes impressed me, the facilities impressed me. And I'm not too far away from home. I didn't want to go real far out of state. They're very successful.
   Two years in a row they've won the Sun Belt. They've got a good competitive competition. The team's well built. I think I'll be a good fit down there.
   Hughes also felt the situation was better for him at MTSU than at other schools on his list. He had several options, but didn't like a lot of the other schools he visited.
   "Other teams, I didn't like how they ran the program," he said. "A lot of the distance runners are foreigners. Coach Hayes only has one foreigner on his team, and other big colleges have four, five or six. You go to a college and they're only three or four english speaking guys on your team. That's kind of rough."
   The signing comes right in the middle of Hughes' quest for a state track championship. He finished second in the one mile and two mile last year.
   Now with the signing over, Hughes can concentrate on accomplishing that feat. But he says he wishes he could have taken care of this a little sooner.
   "It's such a relief," Hughes said. "It's been on my mind, and I wish I had gotten it over with earlier. But it is a big relief getting it over with.
   "I kind of started late looking for schools, and cross country limited my visits. Then I started late, and just went different places. I had time to think about it. I finally came to the conclusion that (Middle Tennessee State) was where I wanted to go."
   Now that Hughes has made his decision, it was day that everybody involved in the Happy Valley track program could celebrate. One person that was extremely pleased was his coach, Don Verran.
   "We've had him for four years, and we've been all over the state," Verran said. "Hopefully, we'll get to go to Memphis this year. He's been great for not only the boys program, but also the girls program. He's influenced some other athletes that have run for us, which is great."
   David's parents, David Sr. and Debbie, were also very proud on Wednesday. David Sr., who also serves as assistant principal and athletic director at Happy Valley, feels like all of David's hard work has paid off.
   "I'm very proud," he said. "He's put a lot of time in it, and a lot of running the past four years. I'm glad he's got this opportunity to go to college, and play college sports.
   "I would also like to thank Don Verran. He's been right there with him. I'm just very proud."
   The younger Hughes feels like that without his parents and both Don and Scotty Verran, this all wouldn't be possible.
   "My mom and my dad are my core of support," Hughes said. "They've always been there to support me. When I lost races they were there to emotionally support me. Coach Verran always supported me. Both Scotty and Don, they've made it for me. I'm going to miss Coach Verran. He's almost been like a father to me.
   "Over the summer, Brian Buckner helped me out in AAU. He's the one that first gave me the shot to run. Coach Dixon also helped, but Don Verran is pretty much the guy I credit everything for."