POULSBO — Kolby Hoover wasn’t afraid to take a chance. After graduating from North Kitsap High School in 2003, he packed up his belongings moving 2,795 miles across the country to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Four years later he returned to his hometown a track and field star with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in hand following the 2006-07 school year.
The 22 year old will be making the trek back to Cornell in the fall to pursue a Master’s of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering. Chances are, he’ll be running during his down time.
Hoover said it was an honor to compete in collegiate track and field at NCAA Division 1 Cornell University.
“It was a blessing and a honor to be able to compete at that high of level,” he said. “I really fit in there and had a great time.”
Cornell competes against fellow Ivy League schools Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, UPENN and Columbia.
Hoover was elected co-team captain of Cornell’s Big Red track squads in 2006 and 2007. Being one of four team captains was a memorable, Hoover explained.
“Everyone on the team votes on who they want as captains. I was a leader by example,” he said. “I cared about our younger athletes coming in as freshman and sophomores and showed them the way. I think that’s one of the reasons why I was voted captain by my teammates. I got along with everyone pretty well.”
Hoover said he wanted to take as many young runners under his wing as possible because he experienced the uneasiness of a freshman year in new surroundings.
“College track isn’t easy and freshman need support from the older guys,” he said. “It’s a big adjustment from high school to college athletically and academically. I wanted to be there for the guys on our team. Our team unity and camaraderie made a huge difference each season. We probably weren’t the most talented team, but we rallied together to succeed.”
During his four-year tenure as a member of the Big Red, Cornell succeeded at the highest level capturing four outdoor Ivy League Championships (2004-2007) and two indoor Ivy League Championships in 2005 and 2006.
Hoover credited various track coaches at Poulsbo Junior High and North Kitsap High School including Dave Snyder, Lee Hodin, Steve Harris, Helen Smith, Trish Olson, Tim Adams and Joe Power for guiding him in the direction of Cornell University. As a junior at NKHS in 2002, Hoover set the school record in the 300 hurdles.
“I couldn’t have done it without all of the help I received when I was in junior high and high school,” he said. “All of my coaches growing up were so encouraging and they kept track fun. That’s the main reason I continued to do track. Without them I probably wouldn’t have made it to Cornell. I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Hoover rarely had days where he didn’t run during his four year collegiate track career.
“It was basically a 20 hour a week job,” he said. “We practiced for three hours a day, five days a week and competed in meets on the weekends. The only time you really get off is during Christmas break. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The schedule was rigorous.”
It was a challenge to balance both athletics and academics, Hoover said.
“It was quite demanding. I could have done better in track and better in school if I was able to focus on just one of them. Overall, I thought I balanced them well and was pretty happy with how it turned out.”
While Hoover said he enjoyed his athletic career, but mixed feelings regarding the reality that his collegiate track career is over.
“Part of me was really ready to be done and part of me wishes I could go back and still compete,” he said. “It’s odd knowing that I can’t compete in college track anymore.”
Hoover said competing in collegiate athletics has taught him a sizable lesson about life.
“If I could make it through those workouts, I can do just about anything,” Hoover said.