MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) – Gophers newcomer Hunter Staack is one of seven true freshmen on the Minnesota men’s cross country roster this year.
A native of Golden Valley, Minn., Staack joins the Maroon & Gold after a successful prep career at Hopkins High School. A two-time all-state and all-conference pick as a senior, Staack helped Hopkins capture the 2015 state cross country title and the 2014 state track & field title. A 10-time letter winner, Staack closed out his prep career with a state title in the 4x800 last year – he also holds the school record in the event. Staack was high school teammates with fellow Gophers newcomer Owen Hoeft at Hopkins.
GopherSports.com caught up with one of the newest members of the Maroon & Gold as he kicks off his first year with the program.
Gophersports.com: What made you decide to be a runner?
Hunter Staack: I always had friends who ran cross country in seventh and eighth grade, and I was always the hockey and football player. I decided to stop playing football to not get injured for hockey, and so I picked up cross country because I had a lot of friends doing it and I liked it. I realized I was kind of good at it, and it ended up taking over hockey.
GS: Do you like to listen to music while you run?
HS: No, I don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to music while running. I enjoy conversation while I run. I think it makes the time pass pretty quickly even when I’m not the one doing the talking it’s fun to listen.
GS: At camp this summer you were the first freshman in approximately ten years to win the badminton tournament, what was that experience like?
HS: It was fun. I lost in the first round, but it was double elimination, so I had to come back and pretty much win every possible game. I played a bunch of games and started winning. There was a little apprehension of beating some of the older guys. But I played badminton in gym class, and I’ve been decent at it. It’s very different outside though.
GS: Do you participate in the team pingpong games?
HS: We play a lot of pingpong. We have a pingpong table at my house too, so we have family tournaments on holidays.
GS: What do you like the most about cross country?
HS: I like that you get to determine your own fate. You can run as fast or as slow as you want, but it determines where you go from there. Your coach isn’t going to dislike you because you didn’t run a fast enough time.
GS: What do you like most about being on the team at Minnesota?
HS: I like the atmosphere. It’s fun, easygoing. No one is at ends or anything. It’s easy to be around everyone.
GS: How has your relationship with high school teammate Owen Hoeft translated to being on the same college athletic team?
HS: We both went to Hopkins High School together and have been running together since eighth grade. We know each other, how each other are feeling on different days and it’s easy to tell when you need to back off because they’re feeling great. You also want to separate yourself from them a little bit to build new friends but at the same time you always have a connection. I think working out together has given us an advantage. We know if he can do this than the other can.
GS: Why did you make the transition from hockey to cross country?
HS: I was really good at hockey when I was little. I quit football because I didn’t want to get hurt for hockey season. Running was something I could do on the side to stay active and still be involved in sports.
GS: Was there anything you learned from hockey that you were able to transfer to cross country?
HS: Teamwork, and work hard. I think cross country helped me with hockey a lot actually. I learned to be okay with being tired.
GS: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
HS: Country Girl by Luke Bryant. I know all the words and it’s a fun song. I think I could get Owen to sing with me.
GS: What’s a fun fact that you want to share with Gopher fans?
HS: When I was eight, I won a go kart at a Gopher hockey game here. I walked up the stairs when I was little with my dad and someone asked if I wanted to take part in an in-between period event and I said yes. I went down during intermission and had to answer three trivia questions and then score a goal on Goldy. I was a Gopher fan so I answered all three questions right and so after each correct answer, I got to move closer to the goalie.
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