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'Just because'

High school cross country runner gets involved in sport as hobby

High school cross country runner gets involved in sport as hobby

March 31, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

Hemu Arumugam's introduction to running came in the fall of 2002.

He was a freshman at North Hagerstown High School who had never run track or cross country.

His first race covered 3 miles against 150 high school boys, most who, presumably, were better trained than he.

As the runners leaned forward in anticipation of the gun's pop, Hemu grew nervous.

"Up until that point, it was the hardest thing I did, running 3 miles," said Hemu, 17. "I can remember being exhausted at the end."

"I would have been happy if I finished in the top 100," he said.

He finished seventh. And by the end of the season, the rookie was on the all-county cross country team.

Hemu, now a senior, is one of the fastest distance runners in Washington County. He's a multi-year state champion in the mile and 2-mile events.

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But, if you let him tell it, the sport he's come to master is really a hobby he just happens to be good at.

As an eighth-grader, Hemu ran 8 to 9 miles a day "just because." He wasn't on the track team, and he didn't run cross country.

"I was more into basketball then," he said. "I didn't know what cross country was."

For a person who said he had "no idea" what he was doing, Hemu has come a long way.

He has run the mile in 4 minutes, 27 seconds, and has run 2 miles in 9 minutes, 49 seconds.

"I hadn't trained for it specifically but I guess all that running, that was training." Hemu said. "So, I guess that was my introduction to the sport."

Before running, Hemu said academics and reading were his main hobbies.

North High Principal Valerie Novak was at Northern Middle School when Hemu was a student there.

"He was an outstanding kid, just an outstanding work ethic," Novak said.

Hemu is taking five advanced placement classes, which are weighted more heavily, so his grade-point average is above 4.0, the top level.

He said he studies two to three hours a night.

"Not as much as I should," he said.

He said education was strongly emphasized in his family. Both of his parents are engineers and his brother, Prakash, just graduated from Ohio State.

After high school, Hemu will study aerospace engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a partial academic scholarship.

There, he will have to juggle his training as a collegiate runner with a strenuous engineering course load.

While he said he was prepared for the college workload, he's not sure what to expect on race days.

"The races will be different because there will be so many people in front of me," Hemu said. "I'm used to being in front of everybody. I'm just going to be another runner."

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