Hughes gets elusive State championship

By Matt Hill

   Second place just wouldn't cut it this time.
   After finishing second to Franklin Road Academy's Austin Weaver the last two years, Happy Valley's David Hughes finally took home the Class A/AA State Cross Country title Saturday in Brentwood.
   Hughes defeated Martin Luther King's Ryan Bailey by 15 seconds to win that elusive state championship.
   Hughes' second place finishes to Weaver have not only been in cross country, but also track. Hughes finished right behind Weaver in both the one mile and two mile at the state meet last spring.
   But it had to be different this time. Hughes came into the meet as the favorite, and he was determined to change it.
   And I can tell you, he definitely wanted it.
   I live just a couple of miles from Hughes, so I have happened to see him out running on the streets of West Carter County. I could tell that he was going to make sure this year was different.
   It didn't look good for Hughes following a second place finish at the Trailblazer Invitational this month, but I knew he wasn't going to finish second again.
   The loss made him realize what he needed to do. It was smooth sailing the rest of the way.
   Hughes took home the conference and regional meets with little trouble before easily winning the state.
   After the loss at the Trailblazer, Hughes took full responsibility for the defeat. He made no excuses. He just took the defeat, graciously talked to reporters, and went back to work.
   Hughes' tendency to finish second in the state and in real big meets can kind of be compared to the Denver Broncos always finishing second in the Super Bowl. Once they won it, you knew everybody would be happy.
   Same thing with Hughes. He's the kind of guy that you wanted to win it all.
   Hughes not only has a tremendous work ethic, but he's also a class act.
   You won't find a much better young man than Hughes.
   In the three years I've covered high school track and cross country, I've never heard Hughes down another opponent. He might talk about being disappointed in his run, but he never had anything bad to say about anybody.
   Hughes also speaks highly of his coaches and his parents, something that seems to be lost in our society today.
   But most importantly, Hughes gives God all the glory for his success.
   Hughes realizes who gave him a talent that to be honest, not many people can do.
   I think Hughes definitely defines the word "athlete". Cross Country doesn't get the attention that high school football and basketball garners, but I think this accomplishment may mean more than any football or basketball team winning a state championship.
   You see, cross country runners don't get time to cool off or get water breaks. They have to run for over 15 minutes straight in early September heat or in early November cold.
   I've seen several runners get real sick after running. This is probably the most grueling high school sport.
   Elizabethton High School Cross Country coach Lisa Watson recently talked to me about cross country runners having to be good kids. She said you have to be well-disciplined in order to run cross country.
   Hughes definitely fits the bill. He's always been there for his coaches, his family, and his teammates.
   This will probably not be the last time this athletic season that Hughes will be in the spotlight. Hughes will be favored to win the two-mile in track this spring.
   But Hughes can finally call himself a state champion. And there's not a much better one out there than David Hughes.