Gabe Hinrichs' Decision To Go 'All-In' Has Been Game-Changer

* Elkhorn South's Gabe Hinrichs won the Team Heartland Region in November

Photo Credit: Minnesota MileSplit

By Brett Haffner - MileSplit Correspondent

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There are many avenues to which a runner will decide to go 'all in' in both cross country and track.

Some will join for the experience of being on a team. Some will find the desire to be a year-round runner.  Others will simply make sacrifices to forge their own path.

For Gabe Hinrichs, the 2021 Nebraska State Champion and 2021 Team Heartland Regional Champion, maybe it was a combination of all three. But at this point, there's little doubt the Elkhorn South (NE) senior has made some big sacrifices to reach the upper echelons of high school distance running. 

Hinrichs has run cross country all throughout high school, but he never competed in track and field until the 2021 season: He was a baseball player and recently hung up his cleats to pursue being a year-round runner. 

"It was a very tough decision to stop playing baseball," Hinrichs said recently. "My dad was a baseball player throughout high school and college, which made the decision even tougher for me to make." 

Having to manage running, basketball and baseball in a year's time was starting to get very busy and time-consuming for Hinrichs, but he began to see some serious success in running in 2020 when he finished second at the NSAA Class A State Cross Country Meet, clocking a 5K time of 15:43 as a junior. 

When push came to shove, he began to seriously consider track in the spring. 

"Even though I was good at cross country, my mom didn't think that ability would transfer over to leg speed in track," Hinrichs said. "It was when I decided to run track, and then ended up running 1:52, 4:12, and 8:59 in my first track season that I realized I had a decent amount of leg speed."

Those track times were no joke.

Hinrichs went undefeated in his entire first track season -- sans the Nebraska State Championships, where he took second in the 800m, clocking a time of 1:53. 

Yet, winning his state titles in the 1,600m and 3,200m in his current PRs made those performance all the more impressive. 

If it hadn't been clear enough on paper, Hinrichs' decision to go 'all-in' as a year-round runner clearly paid dividends. 

"My team won the state title in track so that made my decision even better to win it with those guys," Hinrichs said. 

However, that still wasn't enough -- he had his senior year fast approaching and expectations were through the roof.

Continuing to go undefeated throughout the season, Hinrichs had bigger goals: He not only aspired to win a state title, but he also wanted to set the state record. 

The Elkhorn South senior went on to claim his first cross country title on Oct. 22 in 15:18.20. 

"I was disappointed to have barely missed the state record, but since I ran pretty much solo I didn't quite have the right race for it," Hinrichs said.

"When I went to the [Team Heartland Regionals], on the other hand, I finally had some competition and I was able to feed off of my competitors and ended up with a nice win. I wasn't shooting for time, but rather the win, but it felt nice to get another PR."

Indeed, Hinrichs ran a time of 15-minutes flat. 

Races like the Team Heartland Regionals are what kept Hinrichs motivated as he earned the opportunity to play his cards against the best runners in the area. 

He hopes to continue that streak at the Eastbay Midwest Regional on Nov. 27 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and has hopes of qualifying for the Eastbay Cross Country Championships, a national championship meet. 

"I want to give myself the best opportunity I can to race the best [athletes] in the country," Hinrichs said. "I want to see what I can do and put myself in a position to be at the front. I just have to execute the race that's in front of me and remind myself of my goals"

As for his future, he hopes that he can earn a trip to Eastbay Nationals this fall, along with trying to break all the Nebraska state records in track this spring and continue to better himself each race and each day. 

He even announced his collegiate future recently, signing with the University of Notre Dame, ultimately setting himself up with a great program on the NCAA level. 

For now, it's evident that Hinrichs has found the drive and motivation to take on whatever challenges are coming at him in distance running, 

"I know that I can do a lot more than what I've already accomplished," Hinrichs said. "It doesn't come easy, but I'll try to win anything that's in front of me."

Related Links: 

Eastbay Midwest Coverage

Gabe Hinrichs talks his outdoor state championships during On The Line

Gabe Hinrichs throws down in final lap of state 3,200m