On Saturday, February 9, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A/2A Indoor State Championships took place in Winston-Salem, and Brendon Hodge competed like the champion he is.
A senior from
Croatan High School in Newport, he dominated his four events and earned awards as the meet MVP and another for sportsmanship. To top it all, Brendon also celebrated his 19th birthday!
But while Brendon made track and field look easy, his life had been anything but over the last last five months.
Brendon and his grandfather Bill, a Vietnam veteran, lost everything to Hurricane Florence -- everything except Brendon's track shoes. And after living in shelters and being displaced four times, a family from his vault club, Pole Vault Carolina, arranged for them to stay in their beach home until more permanent housing could be secured.
Without the guarantee of a home, but safe in the love of his grandfather and his community, Brendon kept up his workouts with Croatan, and with the Havelock Heat Track Club. Along with his grandfather, he drove to Durham for pole vault coaching every chance he could. Though challenged, Brendon stayed mentally tough.
Going into the 1A/2A state meets, he was seeded high. Steeped in humility as he is, Brendon did not worry about the numbers. He was too busy to really contemplate his standings anyway. On the morning of competition, he checked in at pole vault and weighed in.
Next, he dashed to the starting line to compete in the hurdle prelims and finals. He won both.
He hustled back to pole vault and cleared 12-feet, then was called to check in for the 4x200m. Brendon led his team to a first place finish.
He sprinted back to pole vault, where he cleared 12-6, 13-0 and 13-6, a hard fought personal best. Finally, he ran the 4x400m as the lead leg, winning that event.
To make a great day even better, while Brendon stood on the podium to accept his meet awards while crowd sang 'Happy Birthday' to him. Though overwhelmed, Brendon had the presence to thank everyone who has helped him, giving us all even more reason to cheer for him.
Andy Bulfer, the track and field coach from Croatan High School said: "Brendon is a very hardworking athlete who has earned every award he has been given. He puts in extra time at practice and away from practice, doing whatever it takes to get better. Even though he is a very good athlete, he is an even better human being. He would help anyone at any time. We are very fortunate to have him on our team."
In addition to training for the events of the heptathlon and decathlon, he's a Eucharistic Minister at Church, a Knight of Columbus, an Assistant Sunday School teacher for the 4th grade, a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and an Eagle Scout.
On Sunday evenings, he attends Youth Ministry and on Mondays he serves those encountering hard times at Daily Bread. After the hurricane, and without the responsibilities of a home to care for, Brendon and Bill kept the fear of the future at bay by serving others in their community who were worse off than they.
Over that time, Brendon has seen the reward for his hard work.
As of July 2018, he is ranked fourth in the country in the decathlon with a PR of 6410. He intends to compete in college, though he has not yet decided where. His Havelock Heat club coach Derrick Hunter likens Brendon to 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Dan O'Brien.
"You are not going to out work Brendon Hodge. His work ethic is impeccable; he is resilient to training. Still, what Brendon has done off the track to give back to the community is what I admire the most about him."
Since the state meet, Brendon has improved his personal best in the pole vault to 13-7. His versatility in the other events reveals a larger ability on the track.
Brendon is a fierce competitor with as much love for his fellow athletes as fire for his own performance. He is a friend to all and it is our privilege at Pole Vault Carolina to be a small part of
this chapter of Brendon's life.
As our athletes learn from us, we also learn from them. Brendon teaches us to stay calm, maintain faith, and keep moving forward. Adversity may be just the thing needed for your next breakthrough, and your best meet yet.
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