Running cross country is a sport that takes a lot of self-motivation and dedication because you’re out there on your own without a bunch of cheering fans or teammates. But Okmulgee senior Nicardio Hunt is okay with that as he works on making a return to the state cross country tournament later this fall. “He’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve had in a while and he puts in a lot of miles each week,” said his coach Dwight Pankey. “I’m hoping he can break the 17-minute mark this year and maybe even get into the low 16s.”
For the Bulldog senior, running is something that has always been there but really surfaced to a full-time athletic endeavor as he got into high school. “I’ve always run some, but I also played football and basketball in middle school. When I was a freshman, I watched (former Okmulgee track standout) Jayden Watkins and he really inspired me by awakening something inside of me to try and do something great,” said Hunt. “People ask me why I run, and I just say that I do what I can to win and even if I lose, I still feel like I’m a winner.”
That philosophy was put into practice last year when Nicardio qualified for the state cross country meet but fell a little short of his goal. “There were 180 runners at state last year and I was running well until the last quarter of a mile when I just ran out of gas and ended up finishing 24th. But it was a great learning experience and gave me an idea of what I need to do this year,” said Hunt who says he runs at least 30-35 miles a week. “My goal this year is to qualify again and finish in the top 10-15.”
In addition to improving himself, Nicardio has also been working on building up the cross-country program. “I’ve recruited a couple of guys this year to help form a team. I try to teach them the ropes and the things they need to do so they can carry on the program after I leave.”
In addition to cross country, Nicardio is also on the Bulldog track team where he runs in the one- and two-mile events as well as playing saxophone in the band. After graduation, Hunt says he plans to attend OSU-IT.