UHV freshman jumps over life's hurdles
Aug. 23, 2014 at 6:48 p.m.
Craig Hogan has confronted many profound challenges in his young life.
The 18-year-old endured a tragedy at an early age that took both of his parents away - a harsh fate to overcome for a 5-year-old.
But his blessings also came soon afterward. First in the form of surrogate parents who knew how to nurture a growing child.
Hogan's foster parents soon became his new parents - Sandi and Darrel Hogan, of Victoria. The placement was a life-changing match for the Hogans, young Craig and his younger sister, Samantha.
Throughout the next 13 years, Craig Hogan's blessings have continued in the form of more siblings. He now has six more adopted brothers and sisters, an ability and passion for sports and the ability to overcome whatever road blocks life has set before him.
Rather than trip and stumble over those obstacles, Hogan jumps over them.
"When I run, it makes me feel free - you get yourself into a rhythm, and you don't want to stop, so you keep going," Hogan said.
Through his natural talent for jumping hurdles and the support of his community, friends and family, the recent Faith Academy graduate received a gift not many teenagers experience: a trip to Australia to compete in the Down Under Sports Track and Field international meet with Team USA in Brisbane.
"That trip changed everything on how I saw everything," Hogan said.
In nine days, Hogan left the United States for the first time, learned how to surf, made friends with different accents and came in seventh place in the world's 18- and 19-year-old males in the 110-meter hurdles.
"That's why we wanted him to go," said Hogan's mother, Sandi. "I wanted him to run track and do well, but I really did want him to get a bigger view of the world and life - not just Victoria."
After his appearance at the TAPPS state meet as a junior, where he took home silver in the 100-meter hurdles, Hogan was awarded an All-American track and field selection to the Down Under track meet.
He had about a year to raise $7,000 for the trip.
"We had a lot of family and friends pitch in, which was great," Sandi Hogan said. "At his graduation party, a lot of people gave him money, which went toward his spending money."
More than half of the funds were raised by the Devereux Foundation, the organization the Hogans fostered the athlete and his younger sister, Samantha, through in 2001.
Originally from Waelder, the two children (Hogan was 5; Samantha was 2) and their infant twin sisters experienced hardships early.
"There was a tragedy in the family; they lost their parents that night - one passed away, and one ended up going to prison," Sandi Hogan said. "He and Samantha were our first placement. We'd just been licensed for a few days."
Since 2001, Sandi Hogan and her husband, Darrel, have fostered 46 children and adopted eight of them, including Hogan and Samantha.
At a spring gala for the Devereux Foundation, the Hogans shared their son's story. More than $5,000 was raised that night for his Australia trip.
"The reason they wanted us to share the story is because he came to us through Devereux as a little boy at 5," Sandi Hogan said. "Then at 18, he's such a success."
Visiting Down Under
In what seemed like no time at all, Hogan had raised his funds, and his parents dropped him off at the airport in July.
"You go with a team of 325 athletes from across the USA, all from different states," Hogan said. "It's crazy how many kids are like you regardless of where they come from and what kind of athletes they are."
The friendly South Texan made fast friends with a small group of Americans and his track team, the Kangaroos.
"They had the Crocodiles, Dingoes - all Australian names," he said. "I got really close to that team."
Athletes from the U.S., Brazil, Australia and New Zealand took part in the Down Under meet.
Three out of the nine days Hogan spent competing.
He was automatically placed in the 4x100-meter relay (the team placed seventh). He chose to jump 100-meter hurdles, in which he placed seventh in the finals with a 16.7 finish. He ran a 16-second flat time in the preliminaries.
Though he loved the competition, Hogan enjoyed meeting Australians the most.
"Australian people are really funny," he said. "The people are so nice; you don't have to worry about anything happening over there. They all live in peace. They love Americans - when they see you, they're amazed, and they just want to talk to you about stuff."
"A group of us were from Texas, and we would say 'What are y'all doing?' and (the Australians) would say 'What is y'all?'" he said. "It's funny because you dream about the day you can go to Australia, and they dream about the day they come to America."
Hogan snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, saw where actor Jackie Chan lives, traded a backpack for a T-shirt with an Australian stranger and took a picture with a koala bear.
"I didn't know that the Tasmanian devil was real," he said. "They had one (at the wildlife refuge). This ain't no 'Looney Tunes.'"
Hogan never planned to run track.
"I was always a football player since seventh grade. I thought (football) was something I was going to love," the UHV freshman said. "(Some kids) said I should try track to make me faster for football the next year. ... I thought it was a good idea."
During a middle school field day, a coach recommended Hogan try the hurdles. He caught on quickly and competed in the event at a track meet a week later and earned first place.
"I just like jumping over stuff and flying," he said.
It wasn't until he transferred from Victoria East to Faith Academy in 10th grade that he competed in another track meet. Though a novice to the sport, he also played basketball for the Cougars.
As a junior, Hogan joined the 4x100-meter relay team and competed in the 110-meter hurdles. Both events earned him a trip to the TAPPS state track meet that year, where he took home silver in hurdles.
As a senior, Hogan ran the hurdles in 15.89 and took home the gold medal for Faith.
Hogan compares competing to life.
"If you can deal with a lot of pressure, it's definitely something you can channel toward life," he said. "Pressure does come around; conflicts do. You can deal with them, maybe not in an athletic way but in your own physical, mental way."
Hogan begins his first semester of college Monday at UHV. He said he may study physical therapy or petroleum engineering - he wants to keep his options open.
"I'm going to stay here two years before I even think about taking off anywhere," he said.