Big turnaround: St. Paul's Hedrick to Akron

Mark Hazelwood • Jul 24, 2019 at 5:04 PM

NORWALK — Ultimately, Davis Hedrick was unable to ignore the small voice in his head.

And while it wasn’t the first time — his slightly older sister got the big assist.

Hedrick, a recent St. Paul graduate after a standout track and field career, had decided to essentially move on from the sport.

He accepted an internship at Component Repair Technology in Mentor, and had assumedly shut the door on continuing his athletic career in college.

But while he worked each day, Hedrick found himself thinking more and more about an offer he had received weeks earlier.

“The internship went great, and I really enjoyed it,” Hedrick said. “It was a tough decision to pick which direction I was going to go, but I had an opportunity that in five or 10 years, I might have been kicking myself if I didn’t take it.”

That decision was to accept a scholarship offer to continue his track throwing career at the University of Akron — making him an NCAA Division I athlete in the process.

“I kind of did what you’re not supposed to do as an undecided senior and not explore things,” Hedrick said of the post-graduation decision. “I kept putting it off, and in hindsight it was a terrible decision.

“The job will be there when I come back, and now I have my foot in the door at a great company,” he added. “I was able to learn what they do, and mechanical engineering is what I’m going to go into and study at Akron.”

Akron throwing coach Brian Forrester was fresh off helping head coach Dennis Mitchell and the Zips to the Mid-American Conference outdoor league championship when he saw Hedrick compete at the OHSAA Div. III state meet in Columbus on May 31.

But it was actually Meghan Hedrick, a 2018 St. Paul graduate and current Ball State University runner in the MAC, who got the connection going.

“She was wearing a shirt with my name on it and he approached her and asked if she knew me,” Davis said. “She then explained I was her brother and talked me up a bit.

“He eventually contacted me from there, and we started talking more in-depth about the program and what they had to offer,” he added. “But yeah, it was Meghan who gave me a shout out and put in the good word.”

Although Hedrick didn’t get to Akron during the school year, he’s been twice since graduation, which was May 26.

He said what stood out was the faculty members he met, noting they took the time out of their summer schedule to talk to him and his family.

“They wanted me to be there, and I agree with what the coach has with the mindset of their program when it comes to training,” Hedrick said. “It’s about how sports throughout college is not just about that, it’s about pursuing a degree and what you’ll do outside of college. It’s a tool more than anything — so have some fun while you are here.”

Forrester didn’t just see Hedrick at the state championships, where he took two bronze medals with a pair of third-place All-Ohio finishes in both the discus and shot put.

He had followed him all season long, watching along with many as Hedrick made huge strides in both the discus and shot put throws.

As a junior for the Flyers, he was seventh in the discus at state at 149-feet-10-inches. By the regional meet of this past spring, Hedrick had thrown 30 feet further at 179-feet-5.

It was similar results in the discus, where he was throwing in the mid 50-feet range. Hedrick dominated every weekend Invitational and championship meet he was in last season.

“They did offer me a very nice scholarship, but I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” Hedrick said. “They saw the hard work I put in and Coach Forrester likes my work ethic. He knew I was working and trying to make up my mind.

“One of the reasons he did offer was because he knew I was working a nine-hour job for six weeks,” he added. “I wasn’t sleeping in until 11 a.m., I was sending him texts at 5:45 a.m. before work. That seemed to connect with him.”

Hedrick, who decided in the last week of June to accept Akron’s offer, will start out throwing both the shot and disc for the Zips. The plan is to eventually work his way into the hammer throw as well, though it may not happen in his first season on campus.

His major, Mechanical Engineering Technology, is by specific design as well.

“I can’t sit behind a desk for any long period of time,” Hedrick joked. “I needed a more hands-on major. I think it’s a great fit for me. Like I said, it would have been pretty foolish to not take the opportunity.”

The decision to head to Akron also was a big moment for the Hedrick family.

Meghan is the only female in St. Paul history to medal in four state events in the same season. She earned six All-Ohio medals, ran in 10 events at the state championships — and is one of the few NCAA Div. I athletes from St. Paul, where she will be entering her sophomore year at Ball State.

Now, Davis joins her as a Div. I MAC athlete with three All-Ohio medals in his last two seasons at St. Paul. As a freshman in high school, he played baseball, not track.

“We kind of joke around that we have three because (older brother) Grady was a cheerleader at Toledo — but he wasn’t on scholarship,” Hedrick said. “And we’re already pushing (younger brother) Ryan to keep the family legacy going.

“But it’s so cool to think freshman year I didn’t consider track and now I’m looking at a great opportunity as a D1 scholarship athlete to a great program,” he added. “And Meghan was in the same situation looking at however many schools for volleyball, but ended up D1 in track through her hard work and dedication. Not too many families or even schools can claim multiple D1 athletes. We put our family name out there because we worked really hard. It might not be the flashiest, but hard work beats everything out at the end of the day.”

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