Sean MacPherson wrote this piece on Olin Hacker winning the NCAA 5,000 meters a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to post it on the new site that my brother was building. Olin Hacker has an amazing story and Sean caught it. Olin Hacker won the NCAA 5,000m title twenty-seven years after his father, Tim Hacker.
Tim Hacker is a cardio researcher, and in 2018, he saved my life by finding me a surgeon to repair my heart, Dr. Matthew Wolf, with three stents. I remember Tim from the 1980s when he ran at Wisconsin. Seeing his son, Olin run in high school, and now, win the big one, was pretty cool. I am so happy for their family, and especially for Olin, who has persevered through some tough times as an athlete. Nietzche said, “What does not kill you, makes you stronger.” I think it is kind of a load, but Olin Hacker gets it.
And as a Wisconsinite for almost 28 years (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin), how could I not write about a Badger?
Watch for Sean’s writing during the World Championships.
By Sean MacPherson for RunBlogRun
Years of hard work, resiliency, and toughness paid off for a distance athlete from the University of Wisconsin Friday night. Olin Hacker, a seventh-year senior, toed the line for one final time as a Badger on Friday night for the NCAA 5K Final.
After a career full of injuries, uncertainty, and frustration, Hacker finally got his big payoff. He won his first NCAA title with a winning time of 13:27.73. Michigan State’s Morgan Beadlescomb was right behind in 13:28.38. Nico Young of Northern Arizona placed third in 13:28.62.
“I can’t believe it still.” said Hacker, “Coming down the straight is what I dreamed of but the last 100 I was still afraid I was gonna lose it and it just did not feel real.”
After two miles of flip-flopping leads and running at a comfortable pace, the field started spreading out with one mile to go. That’s where Hacker made his first big move – jumping from 11th to 3rd by the time there was three laps to go.
With one lap to go, Hacker and his conference rival Beadlescomb, a sixth-year senior, began to slowly separate from the rest of the field. While Nico Young stayed hung tight, the pure foot speed of Hacker (3:56 mile PB) and Beadlescomb (3:52 mile PB) was going to play to their advantage. The race was going to come down to two long-time Big Ten athletes who have raced each other countless times over the years.
“With 400 to go I kind of took a peek up at the board and saw that we had daylight.” said Hacker, “I felt strong enough where I knew it was just me and him.”
Hacker passed Beadlescomb with 120 meters to go and separated himself with a very strong kick down the final straightaway. With 10 meters to go, Hacker put his hands on his head in disbelief. His college career full of challenges just concluded with a 54.5 final lap and an NCAA title.
“Sitting on the shoulder, I knew I had another gear.” said Hacker, “I really thought that was going to be enough.”
With his title, Hacker became the 30th individual NCAA track champion in school history. He joins an elite group of Badgers distance runners to win the 5,000-meter title. The list includes athletes like Morgan McDonald, Chris Solinsky, and his father, Tim Hacker, who won in 1985.
“In the locker room, there’s a wall with a picture of all the NCAA champions. I look at that every day after my run and roll out.” said Hacker, “I was kind of thinking that before this weekend – if I win I would be up there. It happened and it does not feel real.”
Hacker came to Wisconsin in 2015 after a decorated high school career that included a runner-up finish in the 2014 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. However, his college career did not go as planned for a while. Hacker failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships during his first five years of college.
When competition halted due to the pandemic in 2020, Hacker was left uncertain if he would ever run collegiately again. Many senior athletes like himself were being pushed out and told that their scholarships would no longer be granted when competition resumed. But Hacker was able to utilize a medical redshirt for the sixth season. He concluded 2021 with a 19th place finish in this same race.
For this season, he was able to utilize the covid redshirt after a policy change in the athletic department.
“The past couple years with my eligibility and the uncertainty of covid redshirts, I kind of didn’t know if I’d be back and I thought there was a chance that I would end it all with a fall and disappointment.” said Hacker, “After last year, I just cried all night.”
His seventh year was where things began to click for Hacker and the results started to show. He finished 30th in the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Then, took fourth in the NCAA Indoor 3K. During this outdoor season, he set a big personal best of 13:19 at the Oregon Relays and won the Big Ten title in the 5K. Hacker finally found the confidence he needed to perform at the NCAAs.
“I don’t think I believed until the end of this outdoor season,” Hacker said.
Now, Hacker will look to run professionally and will certainly have options after his big performance in Eugene. No matter what happens next, the 25-year-old can hold onto this storybook ending to a whirlwind of a collegiate career.
“I’ve wanted to be a Badger ever since I learned that my dad was.” said Hacker, “To spend as long as long as I did at Wisconsin and wrapping up with this race, it just means the world to me.”