Just one throw away


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Ask Gabe Hull to describe himself and he’ll say it in four words: beard, Mountain Dew, and discus.

When he first joined the Iowa track and field team as a thrower, Hull was not nearly as daunting of a figure as he is now. Yes, his 6-8 stature was large in comparison with just about everyone on campus, but his student ID shows a picture taken freshman year — his baby face barely recognizable to anyone who did not know him then.

Now, nearly four years later, the Bloomington, Indiana, native displays a beard that could rival that of Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson.

“The beard just kind of came. Teammates love it. Old Gabe was a little young and creepy looking,” Hull said. “Now I’m older, hairier, and still creepy looking.”

While the beard has become something associated with Hull in recent years, Mountain Dew has long been one of his staples. Legend has it that there was a meet during his freshman year of high school that doubled as a party — according to Hull, the exact details were lost over the years — and trying to be funny, Hull stole a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and drank the entire thing during his competition.

The meet turned out to be the best of his career, so he decided to try it again at the next one. Once again, it resulted in a personal best. He’s put back a two-liter bottle of his favorite soda at every competition since.

In high school, coaches didn’t mind his superstitious habit, and it was something former throws coach Scott Cappos quickly got used to. First-year Iowa throws coach Andrew Dubs’ attempts to change Hull’s ways have failed. “It’s not that I’m not willing to change — it’s just that I don’t want to,” Hull said.

“I didn’t know about the Mountain Dew until the intrasquad meet. I asked Avery [Meyers], ‘What the hell is Gabe doing?’ and he said, ‘Oh, that’s his thing,’ ” Dubs said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest or best thing for him, but for his mindset, it’s what he’s comfortable with.”

Before high school, Hull had no intention to join the track and field team. His sister persuaded him to do it his freshman year by dragging him to the preseason team meeting.

He didn’t want to run, so the coach handed him a discus.

It quickly became clear he had found his niche in throwing “the little Frisbee-looking thing.” Hull won two Indiana state titles, still holds the Bloomington High South record, and was labeled as the second-best prospect in his recruiting class.

Although many colleges got in contact with Hull attempting to recruit him, he was attracted to Iowa because of the community he discovered when visiting the team.

The college discus weighs more than that used in high school, and Hull had to adjust. That is not to say it was too much of a struggle, though. As a freshman, Hull placed fifth at the Big Ten outdoor meet. Since then, he has bulked up, gotten stronger, and his performances have continually improved.

“We expect him to go out and perform at a high level every time he steps into the ring,” Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said. “He’s done some exceptional things at Iowa, and I know he still has his sights set high for the end of the season.”

As a sophomore, Hull took third at Big Tens, then improved to a second-place finish his junior year.

His goals are set high, but they are not unreachable. The senior hopes to finally win the Big Ten title he has vied for over the past three years, continue on to regionals, and contend for the national title.

“Gabe’s goal all year has been a Big Ten title. He’s been bridesmaid a couple of times, but now he wants to win,” Dubs said. “I think he’s certainly capable of it.”

Upon graduation, Hull’s sights are set on heading down to Rio de Janeiro in August 2016 as a part of the U.S. Olympic team. He could have the opportunity to continue to train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, to prepare for the 2016 Olympic trials.

As for now, Hull has made his intentions clear for the Big Ten Championships coming up in fewer than two weeks:

“I’m not leaving without that gold medal.”

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