ALTOONA — Brian Hackman didn’t care about track and field.
He was lost in the shuffle at State College Area High School the previous two years, and he had no motivation to get better. But he’s rediscovered his work ethic and passion for the sport since transferring to the smaller St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
“I guess at State High they had a whole lot of really fast kids so I didn’t really need to put effort into,” Hackman said. “I could just sort of hang back, but here I just sort of had to step up and come out and do what I can for the team and help everyone get better.”
Hackman led the way for St. Joseph’s in Class AA competition at the West Central Coaches Meet at Altoona on Friday, finishing third in the 800-meter (2:02.93) and fourth in the 1,600 (4:34.22). Teammate Eli Urban finished fifth in the 800 (2:05.02) and sixth in the 1,600 (4:39.07). The St. Joseph’s 3,200 relay team took fifth with a time of 8:43.89.
Bald Eagle Area’s Nathan Styles finished third in the 400 with a time of 52.23, and he was fourth in the 200 (23.75). Bryce Greene was second in the 200 (23.51). Zach Moody finished fourth in the 3,200 (10:23.86). For Philipsburg-Osceola, Collin Maurer took fifth in the triple jump (41-3.50).
In Class AA girls, Penns Valley’s Chelsea Emel finished third in the shot put (34-4) and fourth in the discus (106-3). Valerie Kubalak took fifth in the high jump (4-10), and Anna Bair grabbed fifth in the 100 (13.44).
For Hackman and St. Joseph’s, it was another step in the program’s development.
After failing to medal in its first two seasons, St. Joseph’s broke that streak to start the season at Altoona’s Igloo Invitational.
“It opens up everyone’s eyes,” St. Joseph’s coach Jayson Jackson said, “saying we’re better than what we think we are and we got to start acting like that.”
Jackson has seen that confidence grow throughout the season. That process continued Friday, where St. Joseph’s finished 12th.
“We’ve had a streak where we’ve had someone medal every meet,” Jackson said. “We haven’t had anyone medal at a track meet until this year so that’s pretty cool for us, each meet always trying to achieve a top-six or top-eight performance. That’s pretty positive, especially a meet of this size with a lot of teams.”
Hackman credited Jackson and his teammates for the success of St. Joseph’s this season.
He understands how Jackson has built the program, and he’s rekindled his passion with the help of the coach who worked with him from fifth through eighth grade.
Before the season, Jackson saw potential in Hackman to make states if he worked hard. And Hackman’s held up his end of the bargain, pushing his teammates while helping set the tone for his new school.
“Caring about what you’re doing is really important,” Hackman said. “Just having a passion for what you’re doing and not letting anyone stop you from what you want to accomplish.”
A year ago, Hackman stood in the way of his own success at State College. On Friday, when the Little Lions boys’ and girls’ teams both won the team titles in Class
AAA, Hackman was content with seeing the success of St. Joseph’s continue.
“Their whole boys and girls team is bigger than our school, so that kind of says something about it,” Hackman said. “Kids are just working really hard and hopefully we
can get up to the level where their team’s at someday and be just as good as them if not better. I think we’re on the way towards that.”
Jackson has seen his team grow a little each year.
Each year, St. Joseph’s had more qualifiers for districts. This year, the program’s finally picking up medals. And in his third season, the coach is hoping to see his athletes break through against the same competition they saw Friday at states.
“You see some competition you’re going to see at states,” Jackson said. “So it’s pretty exciting to know that we can go up there and hang with them.”