Noah Hufnagel: Next man up


Photo courtesy of Wade Event Photography

Senior Noah Hufnagel passes a runner from Lee University at the Samford Invite during the 2021 indoor track season.

Quinton Watt, Sports Editor

The 2021-2022 men’s cross-country and track seasons consisted of great talent and historic running for the Eagles. One can argue that Titus Winders and Austin Nolan will make USI’s hall of fame.

With both men leaving at the end of the 2021-2022 season, it was hard to tell how well USI would transition into Division I.

One runner left his mark on USI’s running history, and his name is Noah Hufnagel.

Hufnagel ran alongside Winders during his time at USI, competing both with and against him.

“We created this culture where we had high expectations of each other,” Hufnagel said. “You want to go out and represent USI really well, so we held each other accountable.”

Hufnagel had a successful cross-country career at USI. Finishing 17th in nationals last year, he came into the 2022 cross-country season eager to improve.

His talents speak for themselves, and so does his work ethic. He covered about 100 miles a week during the summer to prepare for USI’s first year in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“He ran number one for us last fall,” said Mike Hillyard, head coach of men’s and women’s cross-country and track. “I had a feeling he was going to take another step, so I’m really happy to see what he’s been doing.”

Hufnagel’s training has been greatly beneficial so far. He broke a USI record by running a 23:36.6 in the 8K race at the Live in Lou Classic Oct. 1 in Louisville, KY. 

“There’s no secret to his success,” said assistant coach Austin Nolan. “ He eats well, he sleeps well and all the little things. He’s a great role model to our younger guys.”

Hufnagel’s record broke a nearly 40-year record held by Nolan’s father, Jim Nolan who ran 23:43.0.

“I knew going into that race, I wanted to beat that record,” Hufnagel said. “But to also run a big personal record. It felt really good to cross that finish line.”

The year so far has looked strong for Hufnagel, and it’s only improved as he prepares for the OVC Championships.

“I’m really looking to PR in each event leading up to the championships,” Hufnagel said.

With USI transitioning to Division I, it’s tough for the athletes who have a chance to go further than the championships but will be ineligible due to the switch to the OVC.

“With us not having something like nationals to shoot for, it makes this year that much tougher,” Hufnagel said. “You want to compete against those high-caliber individuals, but we will still focus on PRs and seeing who we can beat.”

Hufnagel plans on running the 1500-meter and 3000-meter races once the track and field seasons begin.USI will compete in the OVC Championships Oct. 29 in Cookeville, Tennessee. For more on the schedule, click here.