Student:

Thomas Hedges.

School:

A senior at Solebury School.

Accomplishment:

The distance runner from Princeton recently won the Mid-Atlantic championships for the Junior Olympics. The victory at the Daniel Boone Homestead in Birdsboro earned him a chance to compete in the national championships in Lawrence, Kansas.

Like father like son:

Hedges credits his father and limited options for getting him into running. "He ran in high school and continued running many years after," Hedges said of his paternal influence. "A secondary reason for my doing cross-country and track is that running was the only sport my middle school offered in New York City. Many of my friends were part of the team, so I really enjoyed running with them."

Inner peace in running shoes:

"I love running because it's natural, pure and simple," he said. "There's something transcendent and real when I go off into the woods. .. Running is like meditation. I can think about things that most of us, with out cluttered lives, don't have time for."

These shoes were made for running:

During the summer, Hedges was running 60 to 65 miles a week, but dropped it down to 40 to 45 a week during the season. The dedication has paid off and Hedges has won every dual meet he has participated in since his freshman year. In multischool meets, he placed 18th in the Pennsylvania Independent School State Championships and second at the George School Invitational. He also holds the Solebury course record for cross country: 17 minutes 22 seconds.

Second place is the first loser:

His success could be attributed to his leave-it-all-on-the-course attitude. "The winner of a race is always going to be the one that spilled his or her guts out," he said. "[Cross-country] isn't like soccer or basketball where runners can sub and take breaks. The strategy isn't to conserve energy. Running is all about killing yourself on the course. You have to estimate the amount of energy, endurance and power you have, and then calculate it so that you can run the quickest race possible."

Modest goals for nationals:

While Hedges concedes that he will not be the strongest runner in Kansas, he said he'd still like to place in the top 70. He doubts he will set a personal best due to the hefty amount of runners competing. "I definitely won't win, but if I do extremely well, I will probably sign up for a few races at the Armory," he related, referring to the highly competitive indoor track in New York City. (Hedges ended up finishing 62nd out of 173 runners at nationals.)

Off course:

When not tearing up various cross-country courses, Hedges finds time to serve as his class president and on the school Judiciary Committee. A frequent theater patron, he has applied early decision to Colgate University. "I am not good enough to get a scholarship for running at Colgate because it is such a competitive school," he said. "I plan to study languages, particularly French, religion, environmental science and English. I have no idea what I would like to do with my life, but I know it will not have to do with math."

What his coach said:

"Thomas has achieved his success through hard work," said Solebury cross-country coach Jodi Woods. "Many people forget that when Thomas started running, it did not come naturally to him. Over the years, he has run at least six days a week in all kinds of weather. He has earned every accolade that he has won through his commitment to the sport. Our team has improved considerably in a short period of time, and Thomas has been a huge part of that success."