Heading into his fifth season as head coach, Darren Gauson led the Bradley men’s cross-country team to four consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles so far.
Set to begin their fifth season on the team at the Bradley Intercollegiate today, redshirt seniors Jake and Luke Hoffert have been there every step of the way.
After the brothers finished first and second overall, respectively, in the IHSA 2A state cross-country meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria their junior and senior seasons for Yorkville High School, the twins redshirted their freshman season at Bradley.
Since that first year on the Hilltop, the transformations are evident to the Hofferts.
“It’s amazing how much this team has grown since I’ve gotten here,” Jake said. “You gotta give a lot of that credit to Coach Gauson because we’re pretty much on the same boat as him. We all came in at the same time.”
“I just remember the very first week of practice, just starting,” Luke said. “Being able to take that first week of practice and looking where I am now, it’s really amazing how much confidence this team has grown and how much competitiveness we bring to everything we do now.”
In the recruiting process, the twins ultimately chose Bradley over Notre Dame, citing the great team atmosphere. In retrospect, they have no regrets choosing the mid-major over the power five school.
“I definitely made the right decision,” Luke said. “All of my awesome memories I’ve had at Bradley, I don’t even know if I could’ve had those at Notre Dame.”
“Everyone that I’ve met here, and every experience that I’ve had has been so phenomenal, even the bad experiences, they all [allow me to] learn,” Jake said. “I always tell recruits, ‘Bradley is a really good decision, and I never regret not going anywhere else.’”
As some of the top athletes on the team, the brothers’ contributions to the team have been undeniable, on and off the course.
“They lead by example,” Gauson said. “They’re very well-respected and really well-liked.”
Jake was named the MVC Freshman of the Year in his debut season and has been named to the All-MVC and NCAA All-Midwest Region teams every season he has competed for the Braves. In 2017, he became the first Bradley male to win the individual MVC Championship in 52 years and earned an invite to the NCAA Championship meet.
After only racing twice in his redshirt-freshman season and battling injuries as a sophomore, Luke had a coming out party in his junior season. Following an 11th place finish at the MVC Championship, he was named to the honorable mention all-conference team.
He continued his postseason success by being the highest Bradley finisher in the NCAA regional meet, helping the Braves to a second-place finish that earned them their first NCAA championship bid in program history. As a result, he was named to the NCAA All-Midwest region team.
Both have received a laundry list of academic honors as manufacturing engineering majors, including being named to the MVC honor roll four times.
While many sibling athletes can be intense competitors, the Hoffert brothers don’t see their relationship as a sibling rivalry.
“It’s more of a hold each other accountable than it is a rivalry,” Jake said. “If he’s gonna get out there and do something, I gotta get out there and do it too.”
Gauson said he only sees a “rivalry” when the two are engaged in fun competition.
“The important things, like academics and their athletic career here, it’s more of a partnership and a collaboration than it is a rivalry,” Gauson said. “They’ll joke, and so will our team if one finishes in front of the other, but Jake is always rooting for Luke and vice-versa.”
After graduation, both brothers plan to focus on their careers in the mechanical engineering field but won’t rule out post-collegiate running.
“I’ve thought about training for a marathon or two after college, but we’ll see what the body allows me to do,” Jake said.
“It’s getting tough on the knees now,” Luke said, with a chuckle.
Things will be different around the program after the Hofferts depart the team following the end of the upcoming track season.
“I’ve never coached a team at Bradley without them on the team, so it’ll be really strange, probably,” Gauson said. “They’re definitely going to be really missed, and so is their family.”
For now, though, the goal for the present is clear.
“If they can help us win five in a row, that would be huge,” Gauson said. “That would be quite the legacy they’d be leaving behind.”