Photo by Nathan Addis/HutchCC Sports Information: HutchCC’s Brett Hillabrand runs at an indoor track meet at Wichita State University
Sophomore runner adds depth to track team
By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor
The Hutchinson Community College men’s track and field team has headlined every week, since the beginning of the indoor season on Jan. 18, by breaking records.
Normally for the men’s team, those headlines are for distance runners Andrew Kibet and Sylvestre Kibarar. Last week, sophomore Brett Hillabrand got to see his name in the headlines too.
In the Region 6 championship last Saturday in Pittsburg, Hillabrand had a personal record in the 1,000 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 32.46 seconds. This is the third fastest in Blue Dragon history, and he also placed fifth in the race.
Not only that, but Hillabrand also performed well in the mile. He placed third while earning a season-best time of 4:21.61.
Additionally, Hillebrand was the first leg of the 4-by-800-meter relay. The relay placed third in the nation with a time of 8:02.03.
“We had a pretty good meet. Not just because of the records, but we had a lot of personal bests and seasonal bests. Overall, it was a pretty productive meet,” Blue Dragons coach Robert Spies said.
Lately, the Kansas weather has not been exactly weather-permitting. However, Spies finds ways for his team to get the workouts they need.
“Distance runners have a little easier path through the cold and stuff because they can still train through that. But when you’re a high-intensity sprinter, thrower, hurdler or jumper, it makes it almost impossible,” Spies said. “In long jump, it feels like your skin and bones are cracking off when you try to do it. Cold weather makes it difficult for all involved, but distance has a little bit of an easier pathway.”
Hillabrand, who hails from Omaha, Neb., has made a smooth transition coming to Hutch. He got to know assistant coach Justin Riggs in the fall during cross-country season.
“Coach Spies has a good hold on the program here – I like everything he’s been doing,” Hillabrand said. “Coach Riggs has put in new warm-up stuff for this season, and he’s also helped me with my form a lot. He’s a sprint specialist, so I know he can help me out there, finishing races.”
The extra help from Riggs has impacted Hillabrand’s season so far, and he intends to continue his improvement.
“I’ve started off this season with quicker times than I did last year. Last year I PR’d at nationals, which is what we aim to do, so I’m right on path with that,” Hillabrand said. “Each meet, I’ve been two to three seconds ahead of where I was before which is what I’ve been wanting to do. I just need to keep steadily improving.”
The team’s workouts can be exhausting at times, yet, Hillabrand’s personality seems to lighten the workload by mentally pushing himself and his teammates.
“People tend to get down at practice when we’ve got like three sets of this, three sets of that, four of these and then a tempo, and I’m like ‘Come on guys, get up. You think this is hard?’ I’m always just keeping them going and not letting them get too down on the workout,” Hillabrand said.
A culture like this is vital when running with such potential. Naturally, teammates start to bond and strong chemistry formed.
“We have a pretty good group to train with. We’re all so close; pretty much a family. We know where everyone’s at and we’re always looking to out-do the other person. It’s just a really great group of guys to train with,” Hillabrand said. “Having that team competition definitely helps everyone, all around.”