Leading the Way: Tripp Hurt '15

Before the 2014 cross country season even began, Tripp Hurt '15 gained national recognition when he won the Runner's World “Best Name in Running” contest. Success in the running world requires more than a catchy name, though, and Hurt proved this fall he has what it takes.

By the end of the season, the senior would lead the Furman men's cross country team to a second-straight Southern Conference title, top-25 national rankings, and Furman’s first-ever automatic bid to the NCAA Championship meet. While the team's national success marked all-time highs for the program, this year’s Southern Conference Championship was different. The men's cross country team has won conference championships before—they did it just last year. However, no team has won the conference meet in quite the fashion Hurt and his Furman teammates did on October 31.

When the Furman men lined up at the starting line, a record was within reach. The women’s team had just secured a second consecutive Southern Conference title, and a win for the men would mark the first time in conference history a program would simultaneously earn men’s and women’s back-to-back titles. Winning as a team was the goal. More specifically, Hurt says, they dreamed of “sweeping” the race by taking the first through fifth place finishes.

By the time they reached the final kilometer of the 8k race, the lead pack consisted of four Paladins—Hurt, sophomores Tanner Hinkle and Troy Reeder, and freshman Aaron Templeton. While it was evident Furman would win the team title, observers wondered how the finish would play out with four teammates fighting for the individual conference title and a perhaps photo finish.

Instead, something inspiring happened. Hinkle, Reeder, and Templeton dropped back just a bit to be led across the finish line by the senior, their leader, Tripp Hurt.

Hurt’s first place finish earned him Southern Conference Men’s Runner of the Year honors, a title that his teammates agree is well-deserved. Reeder explained that Hurt earned the win before the race even started. This season Hurt consistently led the Furman team in meets, earned multiple Southern Conference Men’s Runner of the Week honors, and was named Southern Conference Men’s Runner of the Month for both September and October.

But beyond his performance in meets, Hurt was a motivational leader. He led his teammates by example in the effort he put forth in training and in races and, Reeder adds, “has done a great job of turning these young guys into a championship team.” So while others anticipated a competition among teammates, Hinkle, Reeder, and Templeton knew that the honor belonged to Hurt and saw no other way to finish the race.

Once the first four Paladins crossed the finish line, they turned to see more of their Furman teammates on their heels. All of their teammates, in fact. The Furman team, consisting of nine runners, truly swept the meet by taking the first through ninth place finishes, a rare feat.

This big win is evidence of the Furman cross country program’s transformation. With a motto of, “Start small. Think big,” it seems “big” becomes bigger each year. During Hurt’s tenure at Furman, the team moved from a third place finish in the conference to finishing second in the NCAA Regional meet and competing at Nationals. His personal performance has improved from placing twelfth at the Southern Conference meet his freshman year to taking the 2014 individual title, a goal he set after his freshman season. A key player in the cross country renaissance, Hurt says, “It has been great to see the program grow and start to get some recognition nationwide for our hard work and progression.”

Furman cross country is growing, improving, and changing the definition of “big,” thanks to the leadership of supporters, coaches, and, of course, student-athlete leaders like Hurt.

Though his senior cross country season has come to an end, Hurt’s Furman career is not over. He will compete in the spring track season while he finishes his last semester as a physics major. After graduation, Hurt hopes to continue his running career with Furman's post-collegiate running program, Furman Elite. Eventually, he anticipates earning a graduate degree in engineering and pursuing a career in research and development. No matter where his future takes him, one thing is certain. Tripp Hurt is sure to go far...and fast. 

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