Welcome to the inaugural edition of Rookie of the Week, where we sit down weekly with a first year student who has been making a big impact on their varsity team at Middlebury. This week, The Campus had the chance to chat with Benjamin Hughes ’27, a runner for men’s cross country. Hailing from San Marino, Calif., Hughes has made a big splash since joining the Panthers, winning both of his first two races to kick off the season.
Charles Crounse: Let’s start off with a question I’m sure you’ve heard before. What drew you to Middlebury?
Benjamin Hughes: I was looking for a small school. I’m from California, so I wanted to get a change of scenery so I felt Middlebury was a good fit. As for athletics, having a team that is super supportive and being able to balance school with sports were both super important. And obviously the location is pretty special.
CC: On that note, how have you adjusted to balancing beginning your collegiate running career and college academics?
BH: It’s not easy but it’s definitely doable. You might have a little less free time, but you can get everything done. I’ve been able to get to bed pretty early every night, so if you manage your time well then I think it’s pretty easy, though to be fair I’ve only done one week.
CC: Going back in time a bit, how did you get your start in running?
BH: My parents both started running right around when I was born, so I grew up with them exploring running as a hobby and as a sport. I’ve always been interested in it but I never did it super competitively until high school. Even then I played baseball my freshman and sophomore years so I didn’t start running track until my junior year. I didn’t have any thoughts about running in college until probably junior year.
CC: How have you found running here compares to running back home in California?
BH: It’s definitely different because you don’t have to run on sidewalks here. There’s lots of dirt roads and trails which I like so much, so that has been awesome. In the winter I think the cold is going to suck but at least for now it’s nice that it’s not 100 degrees out. It’s been so nice to be out in nature looking at all sorts of different stuff while you’re running.
CC: Now that you are running for all three seasons (cross country, indoor track and outdoor track), what is your favorite event?
BH: It’s hard, but I’d say my favorite event is the mile in track. But cross country has been growing on me. I had a pretty good senior season in high school and then it started off pretty well here.
CC: You’ve raced twice so far this fall. You’ve won both of them so congrats on that. Did you expect your season to start like this?
BH: I wouldn’t say so. Both these races were prescribed workout efforts, so we weren’t going full gas. I expected to feel pretty good since we weren’t going all out but I didn’t expect to win since our team is very good.
CC: Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
BH: I wouldn’t say there’s anything big. I try to get breakfast in and take my mind off the racing. One weird thing is that I cannot listen to Drake before races because I think Drake makes you run slow. I do like to listen to other music to get amped up. I’ve been listening to a lot of Central Cee recently. About an hour before the race I like to just talk to people about things that aren’t related to running because that takes the nerves away.
CC: Looking ahead to the rest of the season, what do you hope to achieve?
BH: Given that both of these races so far have been workout efforts, I’m excited to properly race all out. Two weeks from now we’re going down to Pennsylvania and the season will start to get really serious with a lot of good schools running there. I guess my goals for the season would be to make nationals as a team, be in the seven that runs at nationals, and it would be cool to get down to a low twenty five [minute range] for time.
CC: Last question: Since arriving on campus, what has been your favorite thing about the team and/or about Middlebury generally?
BH: I would say that it’s having a great group of people around me. Being on the team, you have friends and people who check up on you as soon as you get here. That’s been super valuable as I’ve transitioned away from living at home to living at college. You have advice about how to tackle almost everything. I think the best part has been having the upperclassmen on the team there to help out.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.