FLORENCE, SC – Malvern, Pa., native Patrick Hopewell is leading the Francis Marion University men’s cross country team this fall, an interesting fact given the 6-0, 150-pound runner first enrolled at FMU in the fall of 1996 and did not participate in intercollegiate athletics.
Hopewell graduated from Conestoga High School in Pennsylvania in 1996 without any competitive running experience. His brother, who lives near Francis Marion, talked him into getting away from home and trying the NCAA Division II school in South Carolina. Patrick came to FMU in the fall of 1996, but not to run cross country. He felt that attending Francis Marion was a good idea, but now attests that he still needed to mature as a person at that time.
After a tough academic year at Francis Marion, Hopewell was confused and not sure what path he wanted to follow. "I was 18, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life," Hopewell admitted. "I wasn’t sure if school was right for me."
Therefore, he decided to go back home to the Keystone State for a year and work. Even after a year back home, he still wasn’t sure where he was headed in life. "I went home and tried working and living with my parents again, but I felt like I was at a dead end. I still needed some sort of direction." For that direction, Hopewell then turned to the Marine Corps.
He spent five years with the Marines from 1998 to 2003. "That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made." Hopewell served in communications installation and repair, and was stationed in California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan.
After leaving from the Marine Corps, Hopewell was in the best shape of his life. He pointed out that in order to become successful in the Marines one has to self-train. "The Marines forced me to become physically fit. It was during this time that I realized I was built to be a runner. The faster you are, and the better you finish in some of the corps’ long runs, the more promotions you could receive," Hopewell added. "The Marine Corps is extremely competitive and that drove me to become the type of competitor I am today."
The Marines were what Hopewell had been looking for, and he pointed out how the Marines gave him discipline and direction. "It (Marine Corps) gave me a perspective on how to handle different situations."
Hopewell is now back at Francis Marion University, with a different perspective on life and school. After realizing that running was his forte, he is now a member of the Patriot cross country squad. Because he has been a full-time student for only two years, he is eligible to run at FMU, unlike eligibility rules at NCAA Division I schools. Not only has he participated in all five of FMU’s meets this fall, but he has been the Patriots’ top finisher four times.
In his first collegiate meet, Sept. 2 in Columbia, he placed ninth in the 5,000-meter USC Gamecock Invitational with a time of 17:25. His other finishes include: fifth at the 7,300-meter FMU Invitational (26:12), eighth at the 8,000-meter Blue Hose Invitational in Clinton, S.C. (28:29), 14th at the 8,000-meter Erskine College Invitational (29:29), and 25th at the 7,600-meter UNC Pembroke Invitational (28:19).
In his second year back at FMU, and first year as a runner, Hopewell has set some goals for himself and the young Patriot squad. He is shooting to become an academic all-american, and with the Peach Belt Conference championship meet coming up, he wants the FMU team to keep working hard and finish strong with something to build on for 2006.
Francis Marion cross country coach Mark Bluman said, "Pat’s been a welcome addition to the team. The other runners respect him for what he has been through, and they look up to him. He is almost like a second coach for the squad." Bluman’s goal for the 2005 Patriots is to claim a top-four finish at the PBC meet later this month.
Hopewell and the Patriots will run in the PBC championship meet on Saturday (Oct. 22) in Lumberton, N.C.