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PREP TRACK AND FIELD: Hobbs signs with U of L (05/07)

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By Josh Claywell

By JOSH CLAYWELL jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com

RADCLIFF — Marcellus Hobbs wasn’t supposed to be in this position, not after suffering what could have been a career-ending injury on the soccer field as a sophomore.

Hobbs, now a North Hardin High School senior, broke both his legs in a game in the middle of the season, but was back training by January in preparation for the upcoming track season.

He competed in his first meet – the Mason County Indoor Meet – in February 2008 and had a solid outdoor season as a junior.

His senior season has been even better. According to KYTrackXC.com, Hobbs has Class 3-A’s top time in the 400-meter dash (48.32 seconds) and runs a leg on the 1,600 relay team, which is ranked fourth in the state.

“Amazingly, it’s looked like he’s come back stronger,” North Hardin coach James Webb said.

Webb isn’t the only one to notice.

Since the beginning of the season, three schools – Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky and Louisville – have been vying for Hobbs’ services next spring.

Hobbs, who has dreamt of being a Division-I athlete since bursting on the scene as a freshman, signed a national letter of intent Wednesday in the North Hardin library to compete for the Cardinals, who finished second to Notre Dame at the Big East Championships last weekend.

“I honestly didn’t really think it was going to be that big of a deal and not many people would show up,” Hobbs said. “Then I came in here and the library was full. I don’t really have stage fright, but I don’t like having the limelight on me that much. It felt like I was loved. My whole team was here, my family and friends, and it was just a great feeling.”

Hobbs will likely compete in the 400 dash for Louisville, which is coached by Ron Mann. Mann coached Team USA’s middle distance men’s runners at last summer’s Olympics.

Mann began recruiting Hobbs after receiving an e-mail from Webb.

“U of L has been one of my top choices the whole time,” Hobbs said. “Once I walked on Louisville’s campus, I fell in love and it just moved straight up to No. 1. I just made up my mind right then and there that I was going to be a Cardinal.

“Coach Mann is a great coach,” Hobbs added. “He’s coached national champions and it feels great to know that he recruited me.”

Kentucky wanted Hobbs as a walk-on and Hobbs said he lost contact with the coaches at Eastern.

That’s when Louisville swooped in and picked up one of the best athletes to ever compete at North Hardin. Hobbs took an official visit earlier this year and got to spend time with the track team.

“I love the campus. It’s open, but it’s kind of secluded at the same time. It’s easy to navigate throughout the campus and it just felt inviting,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs will be the sixth North Hardin athlete to compete for Louisville, and will join former teammate Breion Harris on the team. Harris won the state championship in the triple jump as a senior.

While Hobbs is glad to get the signing out of the way, he knows he still has much to accomplish in the coming weeks. And now that he’s signed, Hobbs can focus on winning a state championship.

“It’s the culmination of seeing someone really put a lot of time in the summer, and to see it come to fruition is just awesome,” Webb said. “I think it’s a testament to hard work, inside and outside the classroom. It’s a blessing and I’m happy for him.”

And so is his mom, Patricia Hobbs.

“It’s still kind of surreal. I’m really proud, but he’s still got a few things left to do,” she said. “He’s got a few goals he’d like to accomplish the rest of the season, and then we’ll be able to absorb it all.”

Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752