HOMETOWN: Phoenix, Ariz.
A CINDERELLA STORY: Despite the fact that he had been a member of a highly successful prep cross-country program (Phillips Exeter Academy), Hodges didn’t draw much interest from college coaches. Just when he was ready to retire his running shoes, USD Head Coach Will Guarino came calling: “Coach [Guarino] told me I wasn’t fast enough, but he gave me the opportunity to prove him wrong. I was running the 3k at the time, and he said that if I ran a 9:25, which was around 20 seconds faster than my personal best, I could guarantee myself a walk on spot with the team. I guess I started eating my veggies that week, because I ran a 9:15, so I had the pleasure of calling him back and letting him know. He gave me a shot and the motivation, and that’s all I wanted.”
UP AND AT ‘EM: Snooze buttons, schmooze buttons. For Hodges and his Torero teammates, pre-practice stretching and warm-ups are expected to be completed by 6:15 a.m. on most mornings. Ever the optimist, Hodges likes the fact an early start has him ready for early classes … most of the time. “We’ve practiced and eaten before most students are even up, so it definitely helps gets you engaged and focused for morning classes. I’m not gonna lie though, there’s definitely been a few times where I had to fight nodding off. Oh, and then there are the times where you go straight to class from practice and haven’t had time to take a shower. Trust me, nobody likes that.”
HAIL TO THE CHIEF: As USD Associated Students (AS) president and co-captain of the cross country team, Hodges definitely has a full dance card these days — and he wouldn’t have it any other way: “I’ve learned a lot about leadership from being an athlete, and I thought it would be great to have a student-athlete become AS president, so why not take a run at it? The last time there was a student-athlete AS president was 1995, the year I was born. I knew I was up for the challenge, and I owe a lot of thanks to my teammates, who were really supportive and helpful throughout the election process.”
#SQUADGOALS: With minimal scholarship dollars available, the USD Cross Country team often has a hard time keeping pace with their West Coast Conference (WCC) counterparts in the pursuit of top recruits. Hodges understands those financial shortcomings may prevent the Toreros from acquiring elite-level talent, but that doesn’t mean the squad can’t pull a few upsets along the way: “We’re a team that’s really committed to holding each other accountable, and getting better every day. We’re going to take chances and go full throttle, and we’ll see what happens from there.”