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Junior Runner Embraces Leadership Role
By Colin McWhertor

Tad Hulst has always been the leadership type. Hulst, a junior, transferred to Calvin from Carthage College (Wis.) before his sophomore season in 2005 to join the men’s cross country program, a program that had won back-to-back NCAA III national championships the previous two years. Hulst, a graduate from Zeeland (Mich.) High School in 2004, came to Calvin to find a team rich in tradition and leadership beyond his expectations.

Tad Hulst“Calvin had a good reputation for runners, but it has been great to have such an incredible group to bond with and make each other better,” Hulst said. “When I changed schools, I knew I wanted a team that could work together and accomplish a lot, so I saw Calvin as a potential fit. It has been perfect; the history of great runners continues.”

There was a time last season where Hulst was the newcomer to the team and could not take a prominent leadership role. “This year has been much better from last,” Hulst said. “I am more comfortable being a leader, and that has made this season even more enjoyable. There were times where I would come in behind younger guys and it upset me a little bit; now I realize that all the runners here are exceptional athletes, and as a team we are very strong, and it will only benefit me as a runner, a person and a Christian.”

With a year at Calvin under his belt, Hulst has transformed into one of the team’s experienced runners and has been given more leadership opportunities. This summer he attended the annual Gainey Leadership Retreat for Calvin athletes in Montana where he could harness his leadership qualities. “I like the leadership role,” he said. “I don’t like being a follower as much as I like to lead. I want to lead by example, and this team allows me to do that.”

Hulst did lead by example in the 2006 season. He continually ran in Calvin’s top seven, including fifth overall finishes at the inaugural Calvin Invitational and the MIAA Jamboree in September. In the MIAA championship Oct. 26, Hulst placed fourth on Calvin’s team and fifth overall as Calvin coasted to its 20th consecutive league title. Hulst was named to the All-MIAA first team for the second consecutive year. He placed 12th overall and sixth on the team in the Great Lakes Regional, as Calvin won for a dominating 10th consecutive year. He also placed 51st at the national championship meet at which the Knights once again claimed the national championship.

Hulst defers credit to the team when asked about his accomplishments in his second season. “There is a tradition of great running here at Calvin; I just wanted to work with the guys to keep that going. We all push each other and achieve everything together,” he said.

He noted specific teammates, including four-time All-American senior Tim Finnegan, as laying the groundwork for success at Calvin. “It is great to know you have a guy who will score at high levels for us every race,” he said. “Tim is amazing, and it helps the rest of us work even harder to try to reach the standard he sets.”

Hulst believes his coaches allow the leadership qualities to emerge from everyone. “Brian [Diemer] and Al [Hoekstra] leave it up to us, the runners, to become leaders,” he said. “They have a lot of responsibility, and they make it clear that we have to be accountable to each other if we want to succeed; they emphasize that we are partners who depend on one another. Plus, they are always open to talking with us and helping us become better leaders and teammates in a Christian framework.”

Hulst will enter next season as one of the top returning runners on a team with more high expectations, a role that he relishes.

 “I am going to miss the guys who will be graduating because they have been a critical part of the program for so long, but I am excited to be the ‘older’ guy and lead by example and hard work,” he said. “The difference here at Calvin is that this will still not be my team; it is Calvin’s team, and most of all it is God’s team.”