Hughes puts exclamation point on standout career

By Wes Holtsclaw

   When you think of great athletes throughout all aspects of sports, cross country runners don't necessarily come to the minds of most people.
   But with the hard work and dedication involved, Happy Valley's David Hughes proved that he is not only a stellar athlete, but a state champion.
   Two weeks ago at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Hughes tamed the Steeplechase Course with an impressive time of 15:39 to win the state championship in the TSSAA A/AA Division. It was an outstanding accomplishment for the Warrior.
   "It's the greatest feeling in the world," said Hughes. "You truly can't describe it knowing that you are the best in the state."
   Hughes defeated Martin Luther King's Ryan Bailey by an overwhelming 15 seconds in the run, with Chattanooga Christian's Patrick Hall not falling much farther behind.
   "I didn't want to leave it down to the last kick, so I took the first mile pretty hard and took the momentum from there," Hughes said. "The course was flat, there were some sand spots that killed the momentum, but it had no difficulty. It was a whole lot easier than Daniel Boone, it was a breeze."
   Warrior track coach Don Verran was very pleased with the effort his senior gave this season.
   "He's a real dedicated runner," said Verran. "He'd come in and work and hour and a half with the team, then he'd run about every night on his own."
   Verran credits Hughes' willingness to work as a key to his state championship career.
   "The boy did it mostly on his own," Verran said. "We were just along for the ride. We enjoyed watching him with the opportunity of winning. He made it exciting.
   "When he was a sophomore, he was telling everyone what to eat and so forth. The more he ran, the better he got. He was the kingpin in our plans, for the boys and girls."
   Hughes had a lot of support in his career from his coaches and parents, and credits his school for their support as they backed him with an extra boost of morale before the trip to Nashville.
   "I've had great support from Coach Verran and Scotty (Verran) as well as my parents and two friends, Jonathan Cochran and Wesley Craft," Hughes said. "They've all been real supportive. It is a good program there, and the school is great as a whole.
   "Everybody supports everybody. We'll go as a team to football and basketball games. It's very close."
   Said Verran: "It's kind of funny. The football boys got on the bus and told him to bring the championship home, and they realized the importance of it. We all just root for one another."
   Hughes had a solid team to back him up this year, as the Warriors finished 17th in the team category at the state tournament meet.
   "They are a great, young team," he said. "They have a good freshman in Dustin Greene. He needs time to mature and get used to it. I've enjoyed their company."
   David took a loss at a meet earlier this past season at Daniel Boone to a runner from Virginia, and he believes it opened him up.
   "That loss truly got my attention and let me see that it wasn't going to be as easy," Hughes said. "So I didn't want to let that happen at state. I wasn't going to let anyone get within striking distance."
   At Happy Valley, Hughes is a member of the yearbook staff, key club and scholar's bowl. He has been noticed by a few major colleges.
   "I've had some contacts like University of Tennessee and UT-Chattanooga," he said. "I'm interested in Western Carolina, VMI and Tennessee right now."
   Whatever Hughes decides to do after high school, one thing's for sure. Nobody can ever take away his 2002 year for the Warriors.