Jenna Hughes ’19 and her father, Tom Hughes, stand on the Berea College track just before time trials this spring. Tom attended Berea during the 1984-85 school year. Jenna, Tom and Jenna’s uncle, Mark Hughes ’90, all ran the 800 meters for the College.
(Photo: Deajah Baskin ’21) 

Jenna Hughes ’19 hates running. It might be surprising, then, that cross country and distance track events are her specialties. For the Berea College junior, a miles-a-day training regimen is worth it for the possibility of outperforming her toughest competition: herself.

“I hate the running part of it,” she confessed. “It’s awful, but I love the feeling of being able to push my limits and see how far I can make it. Every time you PR (set a personal record), it’s worth it.”

The technology and applied design/computer science major trains for cross country and track events six days a week. “Easy days” are five miles. The rest are six to eight miles.

Jenna’s best event is the 800 meters, for which she holds a personal record of 2:23, a success that made the suffering fade to the background. 

I hate the running part of it… but I love the feeling of being able to push my limits and see how far I can make it.

Jenna Hughes ’19

“When I ran my 2:23,” she said, “my body was dead. I was destroyed, but there was still so much energy because I realized I finally did it. I don’t even know if I placed. I was just focusing on not blacking out. I did do a lot better than my ranking, though.”

“She’s very clutch,” said Shawn Jakubowski, head coach for the men’s and women’s cross country and track teams. “She loves the competition. Once she’s on the track, it’s like a switch, and she’s ready to go.”

Hughes calls Jakubowski her “second dad” and notes an incident where he assisted her when she had car trouble. Her “first” dad is Tom Hughes, who attended Berea College for the 1984-85 academic year and also ran cross country and track.

“My dad got me into running,” said Jenna, noting that her two sisters also ran growing up and they would run road races as a family. “Most of the T-shirts I own are running shirts.”

Tom, who has coached track at the local high school in Osgood, Ind., for the past 12 years, says dislike of running is common among young athletes.

“I see former students out running now,” Tom said, “and I’ll say, ‘what are you doing running? You hated track.’ They say they enjoy it now because they don’t have to run.”

Tom and Jenna aren’t the only ones in the Hughes family to have run for Berea. Tom’s brother, Mark ’90, also ran cross country and track while he attended. Like Tom and Jenna, his specialty was the 800 meters. During his tenure, Berea College went to nationals, an experience Jenna shared 30 years later.

The youngest of 16 children, Tom and Mark took to running because, as Tom says, “some things come easier for some families.” According to Mark, that’s easy for Tom to say, as running came naturally to him. Mark said he had to train constantly. Both passed on their love of running to their children, and Tom believes it has been a beneficial family tradition.

“Sports, in general, have helped Jenna not settle for second or third best,” Tom said. “She’s always trying to be the best she can be. I’m proud of her. All three of my girls have been successful in what they do.”

Jenna echoed that sentiment, remarking that she sees her track teammates as a second family who are “all suffering together.”

“I’m all in it for the competition,” she said. “Opponents are there to push me, but really I’m all about what the stopwatch says.”

Jenna Hughes ’19

Jenna feels the same about college. Enduring the homework to make the grades, the ends justify the means. If she applies the same philosophy to life, she’s sure to go the distance.

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