Cross Country coach finds his stride


Denise Devaney

The Cross Country teams have a new coach this year. Coach G.J. Hudgens is originally from Nashville, Tennessee but had been living in Atlanta for the past four years. He found his way there after graduating from the University of Alabama in hopes of pursuing a job in film. “[There weren’t jobs for my field in Nashville] and Atlanta was more promising in terms of what I was looking for,” Hudgens said.

Coach Hudgens coaches both the Men’s and Women’s teams.

Hudgens found his passion for running when he was young. “I’ve been running since the fourth grade. The first sport at my school was cross country. I didn’t have any other options until 6th grade.”

He got more competitive in the sport to try to finish before his friend in the mile. Unfortunately, the race did not have the results he wanted. “The first meet comes along, and first place went to some guy I didn’t know, second place went to my friend who missed weeks of practice for being sick, and I was third place. I was so mad and infuriated.”

Afterwards he was asked to compete in the 4×400 meter relay because one leg couldn’t race that day. Despite never running the 400-meter event before, he finished his 400-meter leg in 59 seconds.

He continued to run the 400-meter and won State in the event and the 800-meter run that year.

Coaching runners was an accident.  “A great accident. I was in school for communication and film, [and] that was what I went to Atlanta for and what I was working in Nashville for. [I had bills to pay while I was in school], so I went back to my former high school and started coaching Track and realized I was kinda good at it. I was falling back in love with the sport again.”

Hudgens didn’t realize coaching was a career he wanted to pursue until much later when he became a coach for a middle school in the area and was coaching individual runners. One particular runner he coached help him realize he loved coaching. “You’re not coaching the sport, you’re coaching the people, and when you start treating athletes like people and friends, you see a whole different side to the concept of coaching,” Hudgens said. Hudgens said that he loves how he can help athletes improve, unlike in film where he felt you had to step on other people to get ahead in the career.

Hudgens loves the atmosphere of our campus and finds everyone to be very friendly. He says he’s good to settle anywhere “as long as I’m with a team I enjoy.” He is excited to see what Cross Country brings this season