J-M's McCluggage headed to Malone
The Bluejays' senior will help the Pioneers in cross country and track.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NORTH JACKSON -- A few minutes after signing his letter of intent to run at Malone College, Jackson-Milton senior Luke McCluggage went outside to run by himself for six miles.
He made it four.
"It's too cold," he said.
He can't do much about the cold. But for the next four years, he won't have to run much by himself.
McCluggage, the 2003 Vindicator cross country runner of the year, will boost an already celebrated Pioneer running program when he joins the cross country and track teams.
"I think this will be the best choice I ever made," McCluggage said. "The program is really good there and obviously Coach [Jack] Hazen is an awesome coach. It just seemed like there was a lot of team unity.
"Hopefully I can go there and eventually be an All-American."
McCluggage, who ran without a team for much of his high school career, also considered Edinboro and Youngstown State.
"I had a great coach in high school, but I didn't have anyone to run with me," said McCluggage, who said the short drive to Canton also played a part in his decision. "It's not very fun to go on a distance run by yourself."
McCluggage has earned all-Ohio honors in both sports and capped a dominating performance in cross country last fall with district and regional titles and a berth in the state meet.
"We had him out for an overnight visit a few weeks ago and we happened to have some other really quality guys there that we were recruiting," said Hazen. "All the guys kind of hit it off."
Hazen was recently named the head distance coach for the United States at the 2005 World Track and Field Championships in Finland. He led the men's team to a fifth-place finish at last fall's NAIA national championship.
Since most runners only get partial scholarships, successful programs such as a Malone can attract better talent than small schools in other sports.
"And I think our tradition plays a part," Hazen said. "Even though we're a small school, we can compete against some of the better Division I schools in the nation."
Salem High graduate Andrew Hodgson and Poland High graduate John Jeren also run distance at Malone.