A COOLUM middle distance runner who has won several national and state titles in recent years has had his achievements recognised by securing a scholarship to a university in the USA.
Hudson Jessep, 18, specialises in cross country, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m track events.
Last year he won the U18 3000m national title, which caught the eyes of various talent scouts and eventually led to a fully paid athletics scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University.
Hudson declared that he was “stoked” with the news.
“I have always been pretty keen to work hard through school and try to get a scholarship to America, and see what it’s like over there, to give running a crack in another scene.”
Hudson and his supporters regard the scholarship as a reward for years of focus, planning, good coaching and diligent training.
Last year, he also won the national cross country teams title, along with the Queensland U18 5km road championship, and the Queensland 1500m and 3000m championships.
Hudson also still holds the Queensland schools U17 3000m record.
“I like the feeling when you’ve worked hard for weeks and then seeing a great result come up, and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’ and then wanting to do it again to try to better yourself further.”
Hudson came to running late as a 14-year-old and he grew up surfing and playing rugby league – his father Dean Jessep served as Coolum Colts president – but he took up Little Athletics in the off-season to help develop his running speed.
“I loved footy so much and I always wanted to make it to the NRL, and it got to around Grade 9 and I realised I was a lot smaller than everyone else – I was a bit smashed about it to be honest – and that’s exactly when running came along,” Hudson explained.
“I always loved footy, but I realised it wasn’t really for me and who I was, and what I wanted to do with that part of my life, and then once I started to transition into running, I started to see results quickly.
“It came to me very naturally, and I guess that it was kind of a way of the situation saying that this is something you can definitely pursue, and the love just kept growing.”
For the former student of St Theresa’s Catholic College at Noosaville, the breakthrough came last year at the Australian athletics titles.
“Last April, I won the nationals for the 3000m, which was huge and one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Hudson said.
“The race went quick, in the blink of an eye, and just seeing the family up in the crowd, it was a special moment for me.
“After I won, I started to get scouted by a couple of agents. I went with Nathan Gillis of College Sports USA, he’s been a college athlete himself and he reached out to schools for me.”
Hudson’s family, including his father Dean, is also incredibly excited about the development.
“It feels great. It’s amazing. You never think, when you’re driving this 13-year-old to a district event for little athletics, or down to the Gold Coast for a Queensland title event, that one day he’d get this opportunity to go to America on a full scholarship,” Dean said.
“We’ve been to Cairns, to Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, we’ve done a lot of driving as well when they were younger – for him and his brother Xaniel – so it’s quite satisfying, it’s a good reward for him for everything he’s put into it.
“I’m just super proud of him, and I wish him all the best and I can’t wait to go visit him on holiday over there actually.”
Hudson settled on Florida Gulf Coast University for its similarities to Coolum and Southeast Queensland. His scholarship covers all costs including books, food allowance, uniforms and study fees. He will be studying a degree in business.
While the weather in Florida will be similar, although unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – the waves won’t be.
“I did get a bit distracted sometimes, like, if the surf was cooking, I’d miss a run here and there, but once I get over there, I’ll be pretty focussed on running,” Hudson said.
Hudson leaves for Florida in August with personal best times of: 1500m – 4:00; 3000m – 8:33; 5000m – 14:57. You can follow Hudson’s journey via his Instagram account – @hudsonjessepp