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Superstitious senior hurdler one of a kind


Photo
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Hurdler Jeff Hunter has many superstitions. Before every meet, Hunter tapes his wrists, eats a slice of pepperoni pizza and bathes in a tub of ice. Hunter says the ice bath "relaxes the muscles," allowing him to get into the proper mindset before meets.
By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
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Shaving, bathing, socks and pizza

Baseball players have nothing on this guy. The superstitions of Arizona track and field junior Jeff Hunter range so far, he takes nearly the entire week before a meet to prepare.

"He does some pretty interesting things," said Arizona head coach Fred Harvey. "He has to have a certain mystique and feel about himself going into a competition."

But it couldn't possibly take him the entire week - or could it?

"It takes him three," jokes sophomore hurdler Dan Cook.

What could possibly use up the entire week?

"Well, I can't tell you everything, because you might think I'm a complete weirdo," Hunter said.

While most of Hunter's teammates' rituals consist of listening to the same song or watching the same movie the day of a meet, his preparation begins two nights before a meet, when he takes an Epsom salt bath and shaves his legs.

The next night, the salt bath turns to an ice bath, followed by some late-night tunes - Mr. Biggs - and a midnight pizza.

"Pepperoni is my favorite," he said. "I just need pizza. That's like my pre-race meal, my good luck meal."

Hunter's superstitions grow more eccentric as race time approaches. The process begins a good four hours prior.

An avid wearer of jewelry, he has a unique pre-race ritual.

"Right before I'm going to race, I have to take all of it off, put it in my hand and say a little prayer before I go," he said. "Right after I do that, I have to listen to (rock band) P.O.D., and then I'm pretty much ready to run."

Hunter also has one very unique, but practical, superstition.

He wears a piece of athletic tape around his wrist in order to have a focal point to concentrate on during the race, helping him to keep his arms moving, which in turn helps his legs move faster.

Simple enough, right?

Wrong.

Hunter changes his superstitions according to his on-track performance. Even the type of socks he wears has an effect.

"Sometimes, I'll wear big socks when I run, and if I do bad when I run with the big socks, I'll put them on hold for a while until I start getting back into things, and I'll bring them back out," he said.

"When I'm wearing the big socks, that's for when I really want to bring it, when I really want to have a good race."

Senior hurdler Chelsea Powell, Hunter's girlfriend, said his superstitions are something she can relate to.

"I respect it. I'm somewhat of a superstitious person myself, not to that extreme, but I have my little things too," she said. "It's a mental reassurance. A lot of it has to do with spirituality and what he's done in the past."

Always looking for new ways to find luck, Hunter changes his routine routinely.

"If I try to bring it too much - you know, wear the big socks - I'll try to tone it down a little bit, maybe not wear the speed suit, maybe wear the old singlet shorts, until I feel like I'm fast enough to where I feel like I can represent a little better," he said.

Some superstitions, however, he'll never mess with.

"Some of them are basic - like the salt-bath, the ice-bath, the pizza - those ones are always there no matter what I do, because I can blame (a bad performance) on something else."

Hunter doesn't even spare his facial hair.

"I just have to have my sideburns everything nice and trim, kind of like if you want to look good for a job," he said. "It's kind of hard, you have to make everything perfect and everything symmetrical."

Hunter avidly maintains the hair on his head, as well.

"I can't have it too long, so sometimes I'll buzz it," he said. "I'll probably actually even buzz it tonight, to be all aerodynamic and everything."

All the superstitions started five years ago, when Hunter was a junior at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Calif.

"Gradually, one superstition leads to another," Hunter said. "They keep coming. I can't get rid of them."

Several of Hunter's superstitions originate from his father, who was his track coach before Hunter came to Arizona.

"The whole wrist thing, that came from his dad," Powell said.

Powell said Hunter brings much more than superstitions to the team.

"He's very unique. He's sort of an unspoken leader," she said. "He's not very vocal about his leadership, yet just about everyone on the team considers him a leader."

Hunter's most distinctive superstition is the athletic tape he wears on his wrist, Powell said.

"I've never seen anybody do that. It's really cool because it has a purpose," she said.

Unfortunately, it seems that no one will ever know the complete list of Hunter's superstitions.

"Some of them are secrets I can't tell," he said. "I can't expose them to the real world."



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