Crete-Monee senior standout Rashad Hulbert has accomplished a lot on the track in his high school career. It's even more amazing how far the defending Class 3A 300-meter hurdles state champion and Louisiana State University-bound hurdler has come in 10 years.
When Rashad was 8, his mom, Susie Ann Hulbert, died unexpectedly, and his father relinquished parental rights.
"He's a very good kid," said his uncle, Moses Hulbert, who raised Rashad in their Crete home. "He went through a lot of difficult times when his father didn't want him."
It was a tough time for both Rashad and Moses, Susie Ann's brother. She had just moved back to the area to be the primary caregiver for her and Moses' ailing father.
When Moses, who is the boys track coach at T.F. North, and his wife took in Rashad as their own, they got him interested in running track. Moses took Rashad to run at a track club sponsored by coach Dorthea Franklin, who was the coach at Rich Central.
"Then I went on to start my own USTA AAU club, the Illinois Storm, out of Calumet City," coach Hulbert said. "That's where he got his base foundation for summer track. Rashad used to run and jump over lawn chairs in the back yard when we lived in Crete when he was 8 or 9 years old."
The mentorship has meant a lot to Hulbert, who won the 300-meter hurdles and took third in the 110 hurdles at the state meet as a junior.
"My uncle has been coaching me since the fifth grade," he said. "He put me in the hurdles in the eighth grade, so I've been running the hurdles for a long time."
Hulbert said he owes a lot to his uncle Moses.
"He helped me get the edge over the other kids," he said. "He trained me real well, and told me to work hard in practice. I just kept working hard."
When Hulbert stepped on the track as a freshman at Crete-Monee, he made it his goal to run track in college.
"He's got a great work ethic," said Crete-Monee coach Brian O'Donnell. "This was his goal. He put in a lot of work last year, and it really paid off."
Hulbert competed this past summer in the USATF National Junior Olympic meet in Wichita, Kan., and took second in the 400 hurdles, catching the attention of LSU coach Dennis Shaver. Hulbert wasn't sure and asked Moses if he could run in the SEC.
"Can you run in the SEC? You can run anywhere," Moses replied.
After a fall visit to the Baton Rouge, La., campus, Hulbert committed to the school.
"I'm just going to try to be the best I can in college," he said. "It's going to be very challenging. That's the most important thing, the classroom. I'll focus on that and the training."
This spring, O'Donnell expects Hulbert, who became the first boys individual champion in any sport at Crete-Monee, to defend his title in the 300 hurdles and challenge in the 110 again.
"It's exciting to have him back," he said.
O'Donnell said anything can happen in hurdle races, but he thinks Hulbert has a shot to win both races at state because he's such an intense runner.
"He's a pressure performer," O'Donnell said. "In big meets, he shines."