With his family’s long history of athletes at Eastwood High School, you’d think Jake Hoodlebrink would have wanted to make it a priority to carve his own niche in Eagles lore.
Half-brother Baron Thoma and half-sister Lara Thoma both competed for Eastwood, as did brothers Justin, Anthony, Josh, Tyler, Lucas and Chris, and sisters Tiffany and Whitney. Jake is a senior at Eastwood, while younger brother Tim is a junior and baby sister Brianna is a sophomore. All three of them are currently on the Eagles’ track and field teams.
Combined, Jake and his siblings have competed in volleyball, track, cross country, softball, golf, baseball, football and basketball. And yet Jake, 19, can only muster a “kind of” when asked if one of his goals was to out-perform his brothers and sisters.
“When I was in middle school,” he said, “Josh and Luke were in high school and did track and they got awesome letters to go (to college). I thought, ‘I hope I can go somewhere pretty good.’ Everyone at my house is always talking track and we do the same events, so we can help each other a lot.”
Eastwood boys track coach Brian Sabo sees Hoodlebrink not only as a valuable athlete on the track, but with his demeanor as well.
“I love that he is so good at so many things,” Sabo said. “He’s adaptable to anything you would ask him to do. He has so many different friends because of his personality. He can fill in so many events for us and is always willing to do whatever for the team. He has a great personality, always smiling and enjoying life. He gets along with everyone on the team very well, and he was elected captain this year.”
Hoodlebrink “can run anything from the 100 to the 800,” Sabo said, adding that Hoodlebrink has also competed in the long jump, high jump, 400 and 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
Hoodlebrink’s specialty events this season have mainly been the long jump and high jump and as a member of the Eagles’ 4x100 relay. He will be an alternate on the 4x400 this postseason. Hoodlebrink had a good indoor track season, placing fourth in the long jump and third in the triple jump at the state indoor meet in Akron
“I’ve done pretty good,” Hoodlebrink said of his spring season. “I started a little slow in the long jump, but I’m starting to hit the 21s (feet) better. The high jump, I started out pretty bad. I didn’t get 5-10 for the first four or five meets. My 400 times have dropped. My fastest is a 51.9 on the 4x400. I think I have a ways to go.”
The 6-foot-1 Hoodlebrink will be counted on to score points at Saturday’s Northern Buckeye Conference meet at Fostoria. He took third in the long jump, fourth in the 400 and placed in the top four in the high jump at last year’s conference meet.
Hoodlebrink said he takes pride in his versatility.
“I actually like doing a variety of (events), to see how good I am in other things,” he said. “If I’m taken out of the long jump, it gives other guys a chance to place and score points for the team, and I like doing that for them. My favorite event is the long jump, and I’ve worked hard at that. After the state indoor meet, I felt so great about it and I’ve loved it so much more after that.”
Sabo said that Hoodlebrink, who has gone 6-0 in the high jump, and teammate Devin Snowden “work extremely well together” in the long jump. Snowden always gets the upper hand on Hoodlebrink – Snowden has jumped 22-6 this season, while Hoodlebrink’s top effort is 21-10.25 – but Hoodlebrink is OK with that.
“Devin beats me each meet,” Hoodlebrink said. “We always talk to each other and get each other jacked up before meets. He’s just a really good athlete.”
Hoodlebrink said he’s also OK with giving up the 400 this postseason. A regional qualifier in that event last year, Hoodlebrink will instead focus on helping the Eagles’ 4x100 relay team reach the Division II state meet. Hoodlebrink runs the anchor leg with teammates Grant Geiser, Snowden and Brennan Seifert.
“Just to make it out of our district this year in the 400 is going to be extremely tough,” Hoodlebrink said. “There are tons of state-meet returners in the 400. Last year I ran my PR to make it out of districts, then I ran my PR at regionals and finished ninth. Right now in the state our relay is ranked second, and that’s pretty good.”
Hoodlebrink was out of his normal element in late March when he performed, for the first time on stage, in Eastwood’s school musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I played one of the brothers, and I loved it,” he said. “I had so much fun, meeting people and talking to new people. It was a great experience. I definitely wished I would have done it throughout high school. It was a ton of fun. My mom (Wendy) and I are going to Los Angeles in July. I’m going to do some modeling and acting for four days.”
Hoodlebrink plans to shine on another big stage in the next few weeks, beginning with the NBC meet.
“I want to go out strong and hit some personal bests before the season ends,” he said. “Hopefully, make it to state in my strong events.”