The year is 1924. Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two young runners, are training vigorously for the Paris Olympics. The British athletes are determined to pursue the sport of running in testimony to God’s glory.
Decades later, the influence of these two young men brought runner Luke Hickman ’15 from Midland, Michigan to Hillsdale. Luke, who studied political economy, is an avid cross country runner, and he is well known as a track superstar in the athletics department. He recently qualified for the 2020 Olympic trials after running a marathon in 2:18.08, 52 seconds under the qualifying time of 2:19.
Luke’s younger sister Leah Hickman ’18 noted one of Luke’s inspirations was pure passion for the sport. The movie “Chariots of Fire,” she said, was always one of Luke’s favorites. Liddell and Abrahams ignited a spirit of zeal in Luke’s running career, with his favorite quote from the film guiding him down the trails.
“‘When I run, I feel God’s pleasure,’” he said, quoting Liddell.
To Luke’s coaches and family, his accomplishments are no surprise. Leah has stood alongside her brother for the bulk of his running career.
“He started running in middle school,” Leah said, “he kept the distance up and it seemed like the longer the distance was the better he was at it. He had plans to be done with running, but he loves it so much that he couldn’t stop.”
Like many athletes at Hillsdale, Luke was an exemplary student. When Assistant Professor of Sport Studies and former track coach William Lundberg recruited young Luke, he looked at “the whole person.”
“Luke was very much aligned with Hillsdale’s mission,” Lundberg said. “The essential part of education at Hillsdale is moral character, so we don’t just recruit the student, we recruit our family.”
Coach “Wild” Bill, as he’s affectionately known, continues to see and hear of Luke’s determination past college.
After his time at Hillsdale, Luke wasn’t sure how running would translate into his professional life. As a senior data analyst at a consulting company, Luke’s passion for running was always the hobby he needed, he said.
“Whenever I need a break, it’s a good way to get out.”
Though he wasn’t planning to train for any specific race, Luke constantly looked for races to sign up for. He trained with a goal in mind and eventually noticed the possibility of making it to the Olympic trials.
Luke competed in his first marathon just after he graduated with a few former teammates.
“We didn’t think we would ever be in that good of shape again to run,” he said.
Little did Luke know that he would go on to run the Columbus Marathon, the Glass City Marathon, and the Monumental Marathon in the two years following his graduation. “When I graduated in 2015 I had the four-year plan of being the best marathoner I could be,” Luke said. Now that he’s achieved his personal best marathon time, Luke is closer to doing just that.
To qualify for the Olympic trials, male runners must have a time of 2:19 or lower. Luke’s time of 2:18:08 placed him among some of the best competition in the United States.
“The U.S. can only bring three people, so they will take the top three finishers at the trials,” Luke said, “In mid-October, there were 200 guys on the qualifying list. There are a couple more races this year, so there’ll be over 200 men competing.”
He plans to continue with his current training.
“I run a few hundred miles a week,” he said. “That volume seems to work well for me.”
Luke is gearing up for the race which will begin on June 19, 2020 and end on June 28 in Eugene, Oregon. His former coaches and teammates will be cheering him on from around the country, with Hillsdale following suit.