TIM PEELER: From Walk-on To ACC Champ to NCAA Threat
BY TIM PEELERRALEIGH When Kevin Hutton met with his freshman advisor for the first time, she suggested that the young engineering student walk on to the NC State track team. Maybe, she suggested, he could get a little bit of scholarship money to pay for his out-of-state tuition.
Four years later, the redshirt junior not only has close to a full grant-in-aid, but also an ACC Championship. The sprinter from Southfield, Mich., is one of 21 Wolfpack athletes who will compete Friday and Saturday in the NCAA East Regional in Gainsville, Fla.It’s all a shock to Hutton, who had all but decided to give up his track career when he headed to North Carolina for college. A Michigan state champion at Harrison High School as a senior, Hutton had gotten some partial scholarship offers from schools like Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan. But he wanted to go south to college to be closer to his father Bill, who lives in Charlotte.
He was also of running track in college. He didn’t wanted to be distracted from him primary goal of getting a computer engineering degree.But the freshman advisor called NC State coach Rollie Geiger without Hutton’s knowledge, convinced the coach that the former state champion could possibly help the Wolfpack and gave him the student’s phone number. The week before practice started in 2003, Geiger called Hutton and said “You will be at practice on Monday, right?”
Once he started workouts, Hutton’s competitive nature took over, his skills kicked in and his times in the 400-meter hurdles kept going down.
“Being a competitive person, once I started doing it, it kind of sucked me right back in,” Hutton said. “I am very happy I did it.”As is Geiger, who has rarely had an easier time recruiting an ACC Champion.
“If I had 20 guys like that, we would win ACC Championships, and wouldn’t I be a brilliant coach?” Geiger said. “You have to have a lot of respect for his accomplishments. He wasn’t a recruited student-athlete and four years later, he is an ACC Champion. That says volumes about him as an individual.”Hutton won his ACC Championship last month in College Park, Md., and it was a sweet revenge for the low-light of his college career. Last year, Hutton was leading the 400-meter race when his knee clipped the final hurdle and caused him to fall down. He finished the race, but finished seventh out of eight racers.
This year, he won the event easily with a career-best time of 50.44 seconds, just 34 hundredths of a second off the school record held by Ron Foreman since 2000. It was NC State’s first conference title in a sprinting event since 2000 and first in a hurdles event since 1995.
His performance there earned him a qualifying mark for the regionals and has him thinking about his first trip to the nationals since he has the fourth-best time posted this year in the East Region. The top five finishers in each event advance to the NCAA Championship meet, held June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif.“To be a national finalist would be great,” Hutton said. “I think I could be in the mix of things there.”
That’s what Geiger thinks as well.“I really expect he will do well here in the regionals and qualify for the national championships,” Geiger said. “I think he could potentially score points at nationals and become and All-America. I think he is quite capable of accomplishing those goals.”
Hutton is also on the verge of accomplishing his primary goal for college as well: he is on pace to graduate next year with a bachelor of science in computer engineering. Since he has another year of eligibility remaining, he’s already structured his schedule so he can get a double-major in electrical engineering as well, by taking two classes this summer and five classes the next two semesters.He doesn’t have to worry about job prospects, either. He and his father already own their own website development company, Matrix Web Solutions, and he spends his free time building commercial websites for small businesses.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Hutton said of being close to his academic and athletic goals. “It really is.”You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.