Hempfield junior Aidan Hodge is considered by many to be the Lancaster-Lebanon League's top returning boys runner in 2021. The distinction comes with the territory after what Hodge accomplished in 2020.

A year ago, Hodge was the L-L runner-up, placed fourth at the District 3-3A meet and sixth at the PIAA 3A championship meet. He was one among many standout runners for a Hempfield squad that captured the L-L Section One crown and the District 3-3A team championship before placing fourth among teams at the state meet.

Many of those Black Knights runners are back in 2021, which is why pa.milesplit.com listed Hempfield as the No. 2 team in the state in its preseason rankings.

One week into the season, Hodge is already off to a hot start. He won Hempfield's season-opener at Conestoga Valley by a wide margin. He was also the first to cross the finish line Saturday in the Unionville 2-miler race for high school juniors.

With that mind, Hodge chatted with LNP|LancasterOnline before the start of Monday’s practice. That Q&A is below. This has been edited for brevity.

You being the oldest of two boys, what responsibilities come with being the big brother?

“It comes with trying to set the example for him both academically and athletically.”

Have you played any other sports?

“Ever since I was little I was playing baseball up through seventh grade. In eighth grade I tried cross country and it stuck. ...After baseball, I wanted to do soccer. My dad was like, ‘Maybe you should try cross country because you have some speed and endurance.’ I tried it in eighth grade and the group of guys I ran with and the team environment I fell in love with it.”

This being your fourth season competing in cross country, what have you learned as a runner along the way?

“When I first started running, it was, ‘You’re going to run as hard as you can for however long the race was. Last year I really learned how to race and strategize throughout races.”

Can you unpack that a little bit as far as strategy in a race?

“I used to be the person to go and try to lead from the front. Now, based on the race and the type of race it’s more sit back and then kick.”

What’s your opinion on hills?

“I normally try to push a little up and then on the downhill make a little bit of separation.”

Who are the teams in Section One you expect to get a challenge from?

“In Section One every team is competitive. But throughout my high school career us and Cedar Crest have always been close. McCaskey and Manheim Township are talented as well.”

After what this team accomplished last year, what prize do you have your eyes this fall and how have you gone about preparing to accomplish that goal?

“Our eye on the prize is every year we aim for the team state championship. We came into this season ranked second in the state by milesplit (pa.milesplit.com). It’s nice to be ranked high, but we have to think we’re not that good so we keep training and work hard to be No. 1.”

Time for some fun questions. What’s your favorite subject in school?

“History.”

Are you superstitious on race day?

“A little bit. I try to wear the same brand of socks.”

You get one super power. What would it be and why?

“The ability to turn back time. So if you mess up, you can just go back.”

What was your favorite childhood toy?

“LEGOs. I’m a big guy LEGO guy. Even today. Stars Wars LEGOs is it.”

What motivates you in life?

“Just knowing there’s something out there that I need to and want to accomplish.”

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