When he recorded a time of 19:03 in this year’s SCISA regional meet, Hugh Willcox became the 2nd-fastest 6th grade cross country runner in the nation. How’d he do that? Partly through the support of his parents and coaches, including Heathwood’s Cindy Scannella and Willis Ware and Midlands Surge founders John and Amanda Charlton (who finished first overall and first in her age group respectively in this year’s Deck the Hall 5K), but also through his own drive to achieve once he discovered that a sport he loved was also one for which he had a real talent. We asked Hugh to share the secrets of his success, what he loves about his support, and what advice he has for others who want to achieve athletic success.
How did you become interested in running?
One day when I was about 10, my dad took my brothers and me to a local running team, Midlands Surge, that practices three times a week and goes to meets. Working with them got me liking running and realizing I was good at it made me stay.
What do you like about running?
It takes determination and discipline to be a runner. I like that if you put in hard work, results will start to show. At first, I was moderately fast, but after training I started to get a lot faster.
What do you do to train?
Apart from cross country practices at school, I run track with Midlands Surge in the spring, and I run with my dad around the neighborhood when we can. Sometimes my dad and I will also go to a track and do speed workouts and long workouts.
What’s most challenging about running?
Sticking to it. There are times when you might want to quit. But I tell myself it’s worth it, and when racing time comes, you’ll show results.
What makes you most proud about your running career so far?
The fact that I’ve been able to stick with it for three years now and it’s starting to show major results. I like to look at the medals I’ve won sometimes to remind myself why I do it.
How have your Heathwood coaches helped you develop as a runner?
They’ve really helped me stick to running. They know the limits and when to stop and when to keep going. Coach Scannella knows what’s best for you, and that’s always good.
Earning a time of just over 19 minutes in a 5k race is a remarkable achievement for a 6th grader—what did you do to prepare for that race?
We always have strategy meetings before races and talk about who we’re going after and how we’ll do it. My friend Joe French told me to stay behind him in the first mile and with him in the second and that we’d pass people in the third, and that’s what we did. I didn’t realize I’d gotten such a good time because I didn’t feel like I had to push myself that hard. That made me feel like all the training had paid off and was starting to show.
What are your goals for next year’s cross country season?
I want to break 18:45, and then try to get 15 more seconds off if I can.
What’s your advice for others who want to achieve athletic success?
If you stick to it and you’re determined and you have discipline, you’ll do well. If you really want it, you’ll go far.