Perhaps it was destiny.
If Gavin Gaynor was going to run in college, it had to be North Carolina State University.
Gaynor considered the Wolfpack when he visited colleges while he was in high school.
But the 20-year-old 2016 Hudson graduate decided to enroll at Princeton University instead.
One year later, though, the allure of the red and white colors of Raleigh got Gaynor’s attention once again.
And this time, he couldn’t pass it up.
Gaynor recently completed a successful sophomore season with the North Carolina State men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams.
Gaynor, who plans to major in chemical engineering, decided to leave New Jersey after just one year at Princeton.
"I just wasn’t really happy there," he said. "It wasn’t the right fit."
Fortunately, an old friend came calling when his stay with the Tigers didn’t go as planned.
It seemed like it was fate.
Gavin’s father, also named Gavin, and his mother, Stacy, were both standout distance runners for the Wolfpack back in the day.
So Gaynor decided to follow his parents’ footsteps. He hasn’t looked back since.
"I love it," Gaynor said. "I’m so happy with my decision to transfer. I’m making a lot of progress and the academics are going well."
Gaynor, who captured back-to-back outdoor and indoor 1,600-meter titles at Hudson, was a redshirt freshman during the cross country season.
He then focused on the mile race during the indoor season and the 1,500 and an event that was totally new to him during the outdoor season.
That would be the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The steeplechase, a race that was not included during Gaynor’s time with the Explorers, features obstacles that are 36 inches high and a water jump. The water jump consists of a barrier followed by a pit of water with a landing area of 3.66 meters by 0.7 meters deep to level with the surface of the track.
"If you hit them (the obstacles), they don’t move," Gaynor said. "It’s a really tough event. It’s fun."
It’s a safe bet that a certain 1963 song by the Surfaris wasn’t played whenever Gaynor encountered the somewhat daunting water jump.
"Everyone likes to watch the water jump," Gaynor said. "People want to see if you’re going to wipe out. Knock on wood, I have been able to clear. I haven’t gone down."
Although he is a long way away from mastering his new craft, Gaynor made an impact right away.
He qualified for the outdoor NCAA East Regional in the steeplechase and also took third against a competitive field at the Penn Relays.
"Gavin is an excellent student," said longtime North Carolina State men’s cross country, indoor and outdoor head track and field coach Rollie Geiger, who also coached both of Gavin’s parents.
"He is very serious about athletics and academics. He’s very committed."
Geiger has had a history with Hudson distance runners over the years. He also coached former Explorer standouts Andy and Wesley Smith and Matt Kassouf.
Geiger tried to recruit Gaynor while he was in high school. But his future pupil turned him down.
Thankfully for the former state champion, his change of heart was a blessing for Geiger and the Wolfpack.
"It was definitely an adjustment," Gaynor said. "The training was a little bit different. We did more tempo runs. The guys on the team were great about welcoming me in. I had rejected them once before. They are a great group of guys."
Gaynor captured 39th in the mile race at the Indoor Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. But Gaynor wasn’t particularly happy with his time.
He didn’t exactly jump for joy after his performance at the outdoor conference meet either.
"I ran 20 seconds slower than my PR (personal record)," Gaynor said. "It was kind of disappointing. I have to run better at that level."
Geiger believes Gaynor’s best days will take place in the future. In fact, he believes the former Hudson record holder has a chance to compete against the very best the nation has to offer before he graduates.
"He was a regional qualifier in the steeple, which is a fairly high level," Geiger said. "He’s the type of young man you enjoy working with. He is getting better each day. First and foremost, he is committed to the process."
Gaynor has spent time enjoying his summer vacation in Hudson. Well, sort of.
He has been running 75 miles per week on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Thanks to his relentless work ethic, Gaynor could be considered the greatest distance runner in Hudson High School history.
Considering the Explorers’ reputation of churning out elite runners for what seems like forever, that’s quite an achievement.
Of course, Gaynor’s groundbreaking achievements may be challenged quicker than anyone can imagine. Despite his graduation, Gaynor’s former teammates have continued Hudson’s rich tradition.
The boys cross country team captured the Division I state title last fall after finishing as the runner-up the previous season.
"I really loved my time at Hudson," Gaynor said. "I’m so happy with the success they’ve had in recent years in track and cross country. It’s really nice that it didn’t just end when I left. They have carried on the tradition."
Gaynor hopes he can be part of quite a prestigious tradition in Raleigh. Since Geiger became the head coach in 1981, NC State has produced 55 All-America selections and 32 ACC championships.
"I’m really excited about what we can do this year as a team," Gaynor said. "The cross country team had its highest finish in a long time and they only lost one guy. I have high aspirations for the team.
"In track, I should be able to score at the indoor and outdoor conference meets. We have a really good sprint squad. I think we can do well as a team."
Don’t count on Gaynor having another change of heart. He plans to hang around the NC State campus until he gets his degree.
"The way the program was described to me is you’re part of one big family," Gaynor said. "Once you’re part of this program, you basically never leave."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.