6A Preseason Preview: Hudson Haley

Last week, we discussed the mounting challenge of defending 3200m state champion Benjamin Montgomery and the intrigue that comes along with him heading into the fall.

This week we'll continue the trend of covering a top individual who also leads one of the state's top three teams. Coming in at the No. 3 spot in this year's 6A preseason preview is none other than last year's runner-up and Austin Vandegrift star Hudson Haley.

Throughout the first three years of his career, Haley has proven to be one of the state's most consistent and tactically sound runners. We routinely see him execute the back half of his races to perfection which has played a critical role in his success on a larger scale over the last year. However, just being a smart racer doesn't get you second at the state meet, you also have to perform at a high level consistently and Haley has done just that throughout his career.

Boys Preseason Individual Rankings

1. 6A Boys Preseason Preview: Caden Leonard

2. 6A Preseason Preview: Benjamin Montgomery

3. 6A Preseason Preview: Hudson Haley

Hudson Haley Carrying Tradition

Haley is the latest member of a long line of Austin Vandegrift individuals who have fought for the state title on the grass. Whether it be Anthony Monte or Kevin Sanchez, the Vipers have been able to rely on championship-level talent at the front of the field for the better part of a decade and that's no different with Haley at the front.

Like his predecessors, Haley is one of those rare guys who comes into high school and immediately clicks with the training and impresses. He started his career off hot, finishing his first year with personal bests of 4:26.19 in the 1600m and 9:42.98 over 3200m. These times were impressive, even for someone coming out of a top program and they showed that Haley had the potential to evolve into something great if his progression continued and that's exactly what happened.

The theme of Haley's sophomore cross-country campaign can best be described in one phrase, "consistent improvement". While his times didn't jump off the page, he improved drastically at every meeting from the previous year's performance. Examples of this include the Cedar Park XC Invitational where he had a 43-second improvement, the FEAST Patriot Invitational where he had a 72-second improvement, and the UIL 6A-District 25 meet where he had a 67-second improvement.

Additionally, he also dipped well under the 16:00 mark for the first time by running 15:26.39 in early September. Couple this impressive performance with the stark improvement that he demonstrated throughout the year and Haley was set up well to score key points for another solid Vandegrift team. He would go on to finish 30th at the state meet and help Vandegrift to another podium finish, marking another successful year for the Vipers.

Heading into the spring, there was excitement surrounding whether or not Haley could replicate his drastic improvements in the fall on the track. He'd quickly show that that was the case as he lowered his 3200m personal best by 11 seconds to open the year and his 1600m personal best by 2 seconds. He went on to have another consistent season and ultimately finished the year with new personal bests of 4:16.63 in the 1600m, 9:18.61 in the 3200m, and 14:52.83 in the 5000m.

These performances meant Haley had very high expectations coming into the fall, not just off merit but because of the gigantic task of leading this Vandegrift team. Losing a top individual talent and state champion is one thing, but being the one who has to fill those shoes is a whole other task. That being said, Haley had demonstrated an outstanding ability to run fast while also running smart up to this point and he'd soon prove that leading this team was no issue for him.

Haley Excels At The Highest Levels

Haley started his 2023 cross-country campaign off the same way he'd started his 2022 campaign, with a huge personal best and a performance that put people on notice. He opened up his season at the Southlake #1 XC Invite which saw many of the state's top teams and individuals compete in August, something we don't always see. Haley would ultimately come home 5th in a stacked field where Vandegrift was edged out for second by a talented McKinney Boyd squad that went on to have a great year.

His next big race would come at the iconic Woodbridge Cross-Country Classic, a meet that's seen some legendary performances, particularly from California-based teams. However, this time Texas reigned supreme as Haley would go on to win by nearly 20 seconds over teammate Dylan Schieffelin in a time of 14:08.60 to secure a dominant victory for Vandegrift.

Next, he ran 15:18.90 and narrowly missed out on the win at the HOKA McNeil Invitational, a race that also featured one of his top rivals for the individual title at the state meet. Heading into the championship season, Haley had done nothing but run fast and contend for wins and that's exactly what he'd continue doing as we got later into the fall.

He ran away with the UIL 6A-District 25 title, running 15:06.00 for a new personal best. He then followed this up with an equally impressive performance at the UIL 2A-6A Region 4 Championship where he once again won dominantly, clocking 15:22.77 and setting himself up for a run at the state title in Round Rock.

Coming into the 2023 state meet, Haley had cemented himself as one of the favorites to come away with his first state title. He gave us an impressive performance and put on a clinic in tactical running as he closed hard over the second half of the race to come away with 2nd in a new personal best of 15:04.20. Following this impressive showing, he then went on to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals where he'd place 31st.

Haley had an interesting 2024 outdoor season as he competed almost exclusively over 3200m. Despite choosing to focus almost entirely on one event, it paid off as he lowered his personal best even further by running 9:08.77 at RunningLane and consistently running in the 9:10s throughout much of the season.

Heading into the fall, I think we can expect to see Haley in prime contention for the state title. The theme of his career has been consistent improvement and I see no reason why this year should be any different. He's shown consistent improvement each year and he's worked his way into being one of the state's premier distance talents. I think we can expect to see him running in the low 15:00s consistently this year and I think he's a guy to watch in terms of the state title because of his combination of performance and smart running.

While we don't know how the season will go, based on his historical performances and his continued evolution into being one of the state's top distance talents, Hudson Haley is a name to watch in this year's state title race and that's why he comes into the 2024 season ranked No.3 on our list.