Considering Eric Hulst, by Larry Eder

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Eric Hulst leads Ralph Serna, in the CIF two mile, 1975, where Hulst won 8:44.6 to 8:45.9, one of the greatest duels in prep history. courtesy of Runningentertainment.com

While my running started in St. Louis, Missouri, at DeSmet High School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, I became a runner in California. In my era were the likes of Mitch Kingery, Ralph Serna, Bob Paulin, Jim Schenkle, Rich Kimball, Andy Clifford, Terry Williams, Benton Hart and one Eric Hulst. Running in Indiana were Rudy Chapa, Tim Keogh and Carey Pinkowski. On the east coast, there was this guy, Alberto Salazar, and in St.Louis, I had heard of this really fast guy, Craig Virgin. In that time, we devoured the pages of Track & Field News, and Runners World, which listed all the runners who broke three hours in the marathon, in a little book of the month. It was a special time to be a runner...and Eric Hulst was one of the great ones.

This was a time of high mileage. After finishing last in my league two mile as a sophomore, I asked my coach, Father "Rocket Ray" Devlin how I could get better. Coach looked down at me and noted, " Uh, you need to run a lot." It took me three weeks to build up to sixteen miles a day, running from my parents home in Willow Glen to Vasona Park and back. Mom signed off on my training log every day, and made a rule that my running had to be done by 11 am. After that, I had a house to repaint.

In the summer of 1974, I ran twelve weeks of mileage, with my mother signing off on my daily runs. I would see Bob Paulin, a top Norcal runner, training over at Camden High School (Bob was a state finalist). I was running around 100-115 miles a week all summer. I heard about guys like Mitch Kingery running 140 miles a week, and this guy, Eric Hulst, who was from Southern California, running lots of miles. That fall, I actually placed in the JV champs--I was a mileage believer.

It was in the Fall of 1974 that Eric Hulst ran an unbelievable CIF
Prelims, at Mt. SAC cross country , over the contempary distance of two mile course. Hulst owned that course, and his race, which is now part of running legend (here is a video I found on YouTube:)

I first saw Eric Hulst at the San Jose Relays, (which became the Bruce Jenner Classic a few years later, when that skinny guy we saw training all day at San Jose CC-Jenner, became Bruce Jenner), in May of 1975. Eric Hulst ran an 8:55 two mile that day, and blasted the field. My training partner, Bob Lucas, and I had run over to City college to watch Eric Hulst, and we were amazed. By that time, he already had run 9:00.4 as a frosh, 8:51 as a sophomore. As a junior, he had already run 8:50.6!

It was in June of 1975 that Eric Hulst won the CIF two mile, in an epic duel with Ralph Serna. The race was a classic match of two disparate competitors. Hulst was muscular and tall, while Serna, a self described 'whippet', was about 5-6 and 110 lbs soaking wet. Hulst had a high pain threshold as did Serna. Serna also had a fast finish. How would Eric Hulst handle Ralph Serna?

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First lap, CIF two mile, 1974, Eric Hulst, photographer unknown, courtesy of runentertainment.com.

Eric Hulst could beat Ralph Serna one way-take out the pace, keep it consistently fast, hurt the field and hope that he had broken Serna's devastating kick. One runner after another went after Hulst, hoping to get to him, but Hulst persisted. Mitch Kingery, course record holder at Crystal Springs ( a legendary cross country course in San Mateo, host of the 1974 AAU cross country) for nearly twenty years (14:28, I believe, in fall of 1974), is seen in the next picture, fighting the good fight, only to end up sixth (8:57.6), in one of the deepest two miles in prep history.

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Hulst, Serna, Kingery, CIF two mile, 1975, note that Hulst took the field through the mile in 4;20.6, first lap in 65! photographer unknown.

Each lap, each excruciating lap, Eric Hulst, willed himself on, with Ralph Serna in tow. That race was to be Eric Hulst's day, as he won the CIF two mile (a final lap in 62.2), 8:44.6 to 8:45.9 with Ralph Serna in second.

Eric would lead a US cross country team to victory in March 1976 in the World Cross Country junior division. That was probably the height of Eric's career, as he made the RW cover
that spring:

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Eric Hulst would go to UC-Irvine for a couple of years, running with Ralph Serna (they became friends), and the likes of Steve Scott. UC-Irvine won a national title in cross country. But Eric was beset by injuries, and while he would get himself back into shape, his interests were elsewhere. He quit school and pursued his other interests, photography, bicycling, design.

Eric died, June 21, 1992, after a valiant struggle with brain cancer. I remember reading about Eric's death in TF&N, seventeen years ago, and still could close my eyes and see the raging bull willing himself around the track, faster and faster.

Last Friday, March 19, 2010, the Laguna High School Track Facility was renamed in Eric Hulst's honor. Eric's mother and sisters were there, and so were many of his contemporaries, including Ralph Serna. There was also the Eric Hulst two mile invitationals, for boys and girls.

The article that follows is one circulated by Ralph Serna (who went on to become one of the most important and influential designers in sports footwear), tells the story of the celebration of Eric's life and times at Laguna High School. Here is the link:http://www.coastlinepilot.com/articles/2010/03/20/top_stories/doc4ba5a2e84af7f090649608.txt.

Eric Hulst still has, over 30 years later, freshman, sophomore and junior records for the two mile. He also is number two on the prep 10,000 meters list behind one Rudy Chapa (pictured below), who he teamed up with in the USA-USSR Junior meet in the summer of 1974 over 10,000 meters. In the spring of 1976, Hulst and Chapa traded top marks on the 10,000 meter list, with Chapa prevailing, 28:32.7 to 28:55.0, in different races. They still lead the prep 10,000 meters list, 34 years later!

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Rudy Chapa, 28:32.7, (next to Ed Mendoza, 1976 Olympian), Des Moines, Iowa, April 1976, photo courtesy of Christopher Thiem.

One final piece. I was speaking to Gary Goettlemann today, proprietor of Ryan's Sports in Santa Clara, California. His mother lived in Laguna, and he remembered seeing Eric early in his career, " I would be on the beach, and we would see this kid charging into the deep sand, running hard, and I would think, well, he's done for. About an hour later, this kid would come charging back! That was Eric Hulst!"

As you do your walk or run tonight, consider Eric Hulst and the challenges he faced, and the friends and family he loved, and remember that hard charging bull of a runner, churning up the track, lap, after lap.

For more on prep history of California, please click on
http://www.dyestatcal.com/ATHLETICS/TRACK/STATE_BK/statehis.htm

For more on the sport, please click on www.runningnetwork.com

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