At Oregon High School, Hudson Kugel was the boys track and field team’s jack-of-all-trades.
Kugel excelled at an array of events, from the 200-meter dash, 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 to the sprint and distance relays. The redshirt sophomore’s versatile mentality has served him well as he has entered elite company on the University of Wisconsin men’s track and field team.
Kugel was on the Badgers’ distance medley relay team that set an indoor school record (9:25.84) at the Alex Wilson Invitational on Feb. 22, in South Bend, Indiana to qualify for the NCAA Men’s Indoor National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The UW distance medley relay had the third-fastest time in the country this spring.
Kugel ran a 1:48.94 in the 800 this spring, which puts him eighth on UW’s all-time top-10 list in the event, just shy of Mark Mellon’s indoor record (1:47.45) he set in 2010.
“As long as I can stay healthy, I can get faster,” Kugel said. “One of my goals for the outdoor season was to get up on the top-10 board in the 800.”
A two-time state qualifier at Oregon, Kugel was the Division 1 state runner-up in the 800 as a senior in 2017.
The success he has had at Wisconsin didn’t come without adversity. In his first practice freshman year, Kugel was working on his start out of the blocks before a freak accident wiped out his season.
“I felt a pop as soon as I left the blocks,” he said.
Kugel tore his hamstring and it cost him invaluable training time. He spent the next six months rehabilitating to get back on the track, going through physical therapy sessions where he used a rolling chair and nordic board to strengthen his hamstring, as well as countless hours biking to add strength.
Kugel said the physical therapy sessions helped him gain confidence that his hamstring would become stronger. He’s hit his stride as a redshirt sophomore, finishing third in the 800 (1:49.1) and 10th as a member of the 1,600-meter relay (3:15.66) at the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 28 and 29.
His 800 time at this spring’s conference championships was 8.14 seconds faster than the time he clocked as a redshirt freshman.
However, hopes of continued success were put on hold when the NCAA announced it was cancelling the remainder of its winter championships and all spring championships.
Kugel said the NCAA’s decision to forgo the 2020 outdoor season was a surprise.
“I didn’t think anything like that would happen so quickly,” he said. “It was very disappointing. It took me a while to get over it. I realized I’m not the only one going through it, but it was still disappointing.”