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The Running Story: Billy Hackmeister Posted on December 01, 2013



If you don’t believe Billy Hackmeister was destined to run, just ask his third grade gym teacher. From an early age, he knew distance running was going to be a monumental part of his upbringing in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

“I started running in 3rd grade. We had this program called the Lunch Bunch Club. We would meet three times a week and run around the playground for 20 minutes,” Hackmeister said.

At 9 years old, the legend was born. Billy found himself enjoying the sport as if he had been doing it in his entire life. A lot of the credit can go to his nationally recognized gym teacher, Joanie Lepage who took it upon herself to promote the sport in a positive manner.

“Joanie Lepage was the person who really inspired my running career. To this day she still continues to support my running. She was a fitness fanatic and a positive role model for the kids to have on the playground.”

Now nearly a decade later, Hackmeister finds himself still running but in a different role. He is a senior on Rider University’s Men’s Cross Country and Track programs. Rider is a small Division One school in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, located just outside of Princeton, New Jersey. He now adjusts to a different setting and is now settling into an important leadership position on the team.

“I made the right choice on choosing Rider. I love my teammates and really admire Coach Hamer. My career is winding down but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” Hackmeister said.

Like any good fairy tale, Hackmeister didn’t get from the Lunch Box Club to a Division One program overnight.  In the sport of running, there are many steps you must take before reaching the higher levels. In Hackmeister’s case, he saw the higher level right off the bat: He was a part a part of his high school team’s National Championship in 2006.

“It was phenomenal being able to be a part of it and being a runner up. We worked so hard and we were determined.”

However, Hackmeister was determined to build his own legacy. Throughout his high school career, he made himself in a top contender in the state of Pennsylvania. For most runners, they start in their early teen years. In Billy’s case, he was a true veteran by his senior year of high school.

“My senior year of high school I was poised to be a top 25 runner in the state. Three days before the conference meet I got the stomach virus. I was never the same after that. Running was going well to that point.” Hackmesiter said.

“It was very difficult and I felt like I was letting the team down. I never really got over it until after my freshman year of college.”

The damage was done. Billy finished up his high school career on a negative note but knew he had much more to prove going into college. Bob Hamer, the head coach of Rider’s Cross Country and Track programs took Billy in and embraced him with open arms.

“Although I was disappointed with the way I ran senior year, Coach Hamer did a great job accepting me onto the team without any problems. He and the team was the main reason I continued to train my senior year.” Hackmeister said.

After a disappointing senior year, Hackmeister was ready for redemption in his college career. In the running world, the toughest adjustment can be the high school to freshmen year of college transition. Not only are you running at a different level, but you are also living in a whole new environment. Luckily for Billy, he found himself right at home.

“I was back to my old ways.  At William and Mary that spring I broke 16 in the 5k for the first time. It was a barrier for me and being able to achieve that was phenomenal. Knowing I could get better and building off that made me feel good,” Hackmeister said.

Just when things seemed to be on the rise for the successful freshmen, he found himself once again in another hole that summer.

“The summer before my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. It’s something I have struggled with my whole career.” He said.

It is very fitting that his favorite quote is from the late Jimmy V, “Don’t give up. Never give up.”

What is truly inspiring about Billy is his pure determination and resilience at the adversity at hand. Although he has struggled with Lyme Disease, he is now starting see there may be a positive ending to his career after all.

“After not being able to run the past few years when I have wanted to most I have found myself mentoring younger guys and leading off the track.” Hackmeister said.

Billy is now on track to graduate this spring with a degree in education. His ultimate goal is to be a math teacher. Don’t count running out in his future either. He has high hopes of becoming a coach as well.

For now he may as well be enjoying his new found passion for the sport.

“I was on a run and I planned on going 20-30 minutes and it turned into an hour run.  I couldn’t stop thinking about More Miles More Smiles. I appreciated it. I have the ability on my free will. You shouldn’t go out to run because you need it should that make you smile. I smiled every mile I was doing. This is what I love to do.” Hackmeister said.



by Mark Spewak

1 Comment

Salam on On 06/05 at 07:30 AM

“We have the same dawn and night, we skirt the same abysses: our uncsoscinusneos. We even share the same history and that is how it all started. "Notes on a Materialist TheatreLouis Althusser 1963

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