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Victoria Hodge arrived at Saugus High with one of the most impressive resumes of any athlete in the Centurions' cross country program - only that success had nothing to do with distance running.
Hodge, 17, had experienced the thrill of excelling as a figure skater at the state and regional levels, enjoying the adrenaline rush of jumping higher, spinning faster and dancing better than her competition.
Saugus' senior co-captain still skates multiple times a week for pleasure, but her quest for athletic achievement has now become a test of endurance, an exercise in perseverance and a will to outlast the opposition.
"I liked running and I felt like it was just another way to be competitive. I wanted to be part of the team rather than just sit around and be in class all day," Hodge said. "I saw more college opportunities in running rather than skating."
Since she first watched figure skating at the Winter Olympics and was inspired by Sasha Cohen, Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, Hodge developed a passion for being on the ice.
"I love being out there feeling the wind in my face," Hodge said. "Just having the feeling that I can outjump everyone or spin faster than anyone is incredible."
After winning several competitions for L.A. Figure Skating Club during the 2013-14 season, with only three 5-kilometer races as her running background, Hodge made the humble transition as a freshman to joining Saugus' cross country program.
"Before I started running, I would always focus on skating. When I came on the ice, it was about me, myself and I, and I couldn't let myself down," Hodge said. "When I came to the team, I made really good friends with a bunch of people and I realized you have to do it for the team, you can't do it for yourself."
Although Hodge has been a quick study throughout her career on the ice, her development in distance running is a testament to her desire, determination and patience.
After winning the Foothill League freshman/sophomore title in 2014 and placing second in the junior varsity final last year, Hodge finally became a full-time varsity runner this season. She finished 10th in the Foothill opener Septemer 22 for a Saugus team seeking its 11th consecutive league championship.
"It meant a lot because I worked so hard the past three years leading up to that," Hodge said. "It felt really special to know that I'm finally part of the legacy and people will remember that I was part of the varsity team rather than just being a supporter and being on the sidelines cheering on my teammates."
With nine state team titles in the past decade, Saugus is trying to tie the California record with its 10th girls championship, looking to equal the achievement of San Francisco University.
"We talk about what she has to do that's best for the team.
When someone feels like they're needed, I think they step up and Victoria has done a really good job of that this year," Saugus coach Rene Paragas said. "It's not just her, all the girls feel like they have to raise their game and compete better and listen to me when I'm saying, 'This is what you need to do, where you need be and this is how you're going to get there,' in order for us to be successful."
Hodge still doesn't consider herself an elite runner, but the same tireless work ethic that has helped her become an honors student and accomplished skater continues to motivate her to be more tenacious in training and aggressive in races.
"Every race I have to keep living the legacy, not just for myself, but for the team and the alumni and for my mom and dad and everyone else who believed in me," Hodge said. "I have to put myself out there in order to make sure they can count on me and to make sure we keep the legacy going."
Hodge still has a desire to complete her unfinished testing on the ice, with aspirations of becoming a coach in the future. But her first priority is to help Saugus add to its cross country legacy with Southern Section and state titles.
"I want to say I finished it. I've been skating for a long time and I feel like I deserve it after all the stuff I've been through," Hodge said. "I was so shocked when I won a competition in skating and I think I would be just as shocked if we won state or if we won anything. We've put all this hard work into it and when you find out you've won something, you're just so shocked because of all the memories, all the sweat, tears and blood that come with it."