Eric Hulst and Ralph Serna

donated by Stephen D. Isham


        Mostly about Eric Hulst.

Ran a 9:00.4 as a HS freshman.  Won the World Junior X-C Championship in
'76, but then faded from the running scene.

As a junior in HS, Hulst won one of the best high school races of all time
as he edged my friend and teammate Ralph Serna in the California state 2
mile finals.  Hulst ran 8:44 to Ralph's 8:45.  From the opening gun to the
final few yards, they were never more than a second apart.  Hulst's
blistering pace sucked the life out of Serna's fabulous kick, and Hulst
held off three or four surges from Ralph on the last lap to win it.

As a senior in HS, Eric went on to win the World Junior Cross Country
Championships, leading the American team (including Ralph) to victory.  The
May 1976 Runner's World has a photo of him on the cover winning the the
World Junior XC.

Hulst was a nototiously hard worker, doing three track sessions a week,
long runs in the hills about the Pacific Ocean while wearing a weight vest,
and four or five weight workouts a week.  He and Serna were perfect rivals.
 Hulst was rather stocky, with pale freckled skin and short cropped red
hair.  Ralph was whippet thin, and his Hispanic heritage left gave him
bronzed skin darkened further by his hours of training, and a head of long
flowing black hair.  Hulst was a powerful, bull of a runner.  He seemed to
beat the air out of the way with his fists, and you expected his spikes to
rip pieces of Tartan track up and fling them in the air behind him.  Serna
was a matador, a graceful, elegant, smooth runner who seemd to not even
displace air.  His eyes would be half closed while he raced, as if the lack
of effort to run so fast was boring to him, and there was no evidence that
his feet ever actually contacted the ground.  They were Ali and Frazier,
the butcher and the surgeon.  It was a glorious time.

Though Serna and Hulst had been bitter rivals in high school, they both
ended up at UC-Irvine to become friends and teammates.  After his senior
year in HS, Hulst was beset by injuries.  While I believe he helped UCI to
one or two div II national cross country championships, I think he was a
mid-packer on those teams, which included Serna (who was twice the NCCA div
II individual XC champ) and a guy who proved better at the mile than at
cross country, Steve Scott.

It seems that Hulst was plagued by injuries thereafter, occasionally
mounting a comeback and getting in decent shape (by his standards) before
dropping off again.

In 1993 or 1994 Eric Hulst died of a brain tumor at the age of 35.  A great
loss of one of the most tremendous high school runners in US history.


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