Running down a dream


Freshman cross-country runner Nate Hitchcock gets ready for life in the Marines

Webster University freshman Nate Hitchcock (left) and junior David Koppelmann do a stretching drill during a Nov. 1 cross-country practice on the Quad. Hitchcock will be leaving Webster in January to begin a career in the Marines. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS

Much like his eyesight, Nate Hitchcock’s military future wasn’t clear. Hitchcock, a Webster University freshman, was disqualified from joining the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy because of his vision. Hitchcock needed 20/20 vision to be able to join these organizations.

But the Marine Corps vision standards are lower. So on July 9, Hitchcock was sworn into the Marines and signed a four-year active duty contract. Sometime in January 2012, Hitchcock will leave Webster and the cross-country team, which he was a member of this past year, to depart for San Diego, where he’ll begin his military career.

Hitchcock planned to join the Marines once he graduated, but when he was offered a slot in his desired occupational field, he took it.

“I didn’t intend on enlisting this summer,” Hitchcock said. “I just planned on getting the information so I could (join) once I graduated. I ended up being offered an infantry MOS (Military Occupation Specialties).”

Hitchcock has had an interest in the military his whole life. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1998, so Hitchcock knew joining the military was always an option.

“I wasn’t pressured into doing it, but he offered it as a viable option,” Hitchcock said. “You get your education paid for, plus you get to travel around and do some cool stuff.”

Hitchcock knew he would be attending Webster for only a semester, but he joined the cross-country team anyway.

“I thought that the prospect of being a collegiate athlete, even if it was just for a semester, would be a really good experience,” Hitchcock said.

Cross-country coach Dusty Lopez has relied on Hitchcock this season. He hasn’t worked with Hitchcock for very long, but Lopez ponders Hitchcock’s potential if he stayed with the team for four years.

“He’s the type of reliable kid we’re definitely going to miss,” Lopez said. “Nate is the classic example of a guy who probably doesn’t have loads of natural talent. He’s just a guy who works hard. I think he could’ve improved significantly. How much? It’s impossible to say.”

Cross-country also served as training for Hitchcock. It has prepared him for the military training he’ll be doing in San Diego.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve been in my life,” Hitchcock said. “It’s definitely pushing me physically, as well as mentally. It’s tough. It’s not easy to go out on a 10-mile run or run a five-mile race as hard as you can. Besides the physical aspect, it’s pushing me psychologically as well.”

Hitchcock has grown close to his cross-country teammates. Leaving them after the semester makes the trip to San Diego much more difficult.

“I really like the group,” Hitchcock said. “One of the biggest cons of leaving after the semester is leaving my team. It’s definitely one of the biggest things I’m struggling with.”

Hitchcock hopes cross-country will have prepared him enough for his training in San Diego. Hitchcock is contracted for March 6, but he’s been told that date will be moved to January. While in San Diego, he’ll participate in three months of basic training where he’ll be stationed at a Marine recruit training depot that is a subsector of Camp Pendleton.

Hitchcock will have a 10-day leave before returning to basic infantry skill training. After completing his training, he will be deployed, though the destination is currently unclear.

Nate Hitchcock’s father, Travis Hitchcock, is proud of his son, but it will be difficult being away from him for an extended period of time.

“No parent likes to see their kid leave home,” Travis Hitchcock said. “Every young man and woman has to have their adventure. He’s having his, so I’m happy for him.”

Although Nate Hitchcock will be leaving the Webster campus in St. Louis, he’ll continue his education at Webster’s San Diego campus. His major is currently business administration, but he’s contemplating changing it to pre-law and going to law school in California.

Regardless, he wants to graduate within his four-year contract so his education is paid for.

“I should be able to finish in the same amount of time if I wasn’t in the Marine Corps because they’ll send my course requirements overseas or my bases in the United States,” Nate Hitchcock said. “I should still be able to get it done in a reasonable amount of time, preferably before my contract runs out.”

Nate Hitchcock said he has enjoyed his lone semester at Webster.

“I like this school a lot, so that’s a con to leaving,” Nate Hitchcock said. “There are a lot of cool people here. It’s been a good experience so far.”

Nate Hitchcock will travel to San Diego not knowing anyone, but joining the Marine Corps is something he’s always been interested in doing. In a few months, he will finally get that chance.

“It’s something new, so there’s a little anxiety there,” Nate Hitchcock said. “I’ll be joining the world’s finest fighting force. That’s a lot to live up to.”

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