Senior thrower Stephen Hubona is one of the most accomplished throwers in Loyola track and field history. Hubona sits atop the school record board in discus with a throw of 51.93 meters and stands at third in school history in weight throw with a distance of 17.57 meters.
Still, track and field head coach Bob Thurnhoffer is quick to point out that athletics is only one of the dimensions of this senior thrower.
“He’s a very unique blend of brains and brawn because he’s built like a viking and he has the brains of a brain surgeon, so you just don’t really meet too many people like that,” Thurnhoffer said.
Off the field, Hubona is a biochemistry major on a pre-med track and an honors student. Despite his busy academic and athletic schedule, he leaves ample room for extracurriculars that positively impact the community. Hubona is a member of Loyola’s pre-medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon, which has done work with hospitals including Lurie Children’s Hospital. He’s also a member of Loyola’s Maroon and Gold Society and Protect and Appreciate Animals-Loyola, a student service organization that spreads awareness for animal rights.
Hubona also responds to on-campus emergency situations with LUC EMS, a team of students who respond to emergency calls on campus, organizes and instructs CPR classes at Loyola and occasionally works for a private ambulance off campus. Hubona was honored for his volunteer work with the 2016-17 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Good Neighbor Award, an award given to athletes in the MVC who make a difference in their communities.
“Nothing I do I get paid for, except for the private ambulance every so often. I’m doing it because I enjoy doing it,” Hubona, a LaGrange native, said.
Balancing athletics with academics can be hard for any student athlete, but Hubona’s dedication to others takes time management to another level. He said he’s able to navigate this high level of involvement because he didn’t take it on overnight.
“I feel like if it just all came at me at once it would have been impossible, but I was just slowly stacking things up,” Hubona said.
The track and field coaching staff has helped make Hubona’s schedule work.
“As a staff, we’ve always made ourselves very flexible in terms of practice times,” Thurnhoffer said. “We’re not like a basketball team who has one uniform practice time, we probably have seven or eight practice times a day.”
While there’s been no substantial conflict between the many dimensions in Hubona’s life, his diverse priorities have influenced him to take a less travelled path in his sport. After winning the Illinois 3A State title in discus with Benet Academy, he arrived at Loyola as a “lanky” freshman, ranked as the eighth-best discus recruit in the country. He said college throwing, however, is different than high school because the weights and implements increase. To give athletes time to bulk up and adjust their techniques for the increase in weights, most colleges redshirt their incoming throwers. Hubona’s competing interests couldn’t afford that extra year.
“He didn’t want to sit around and stick around in college, he wanted to get his four years in and go off to medical school, so he’s had to play a little bit of catch up,” assistant coach Pat McGarry, who recruited Hubona, said.
Hubona caught up fast: He broke the 35-year-old school discus record in his second year at Loyola and finished fourth out of 18 competitors in discus at the 2016 MVC Championship. The throw served as another sign of program progress for McGarry and big-time gratification for Hubona. He admitted the sport takes a special amount of dedication and patience.
“[Breaking a record] is that moment when everything comes together and all the hard work pays off and you can feel good about where you’re at,” Hubona said.
Coming into his final year, Hubona is looking for more payoff. This year, he’ll be competing exclusively in the weight throw during the indoor season and in discus during the outdoor season. McGarry said he believes things will be easier for Hubona this time around because he no longer has to study for his Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He’s already off to a solid start in the early stages of the indoor season, tallying four top-five finishes in five meets, including a first place distance of 17.57m in weight throw at the John Tierney Classic Jan. 20.
Moving forward, Hubona’s goals for the season include making podium for discus and weight throw at the MVC Championships and making it to the National Championship first round meet in discus, all of which would be firsts for Hubona.
“I think he can do it. He’s made some really good progress in his technique,” McGarry said.
With the help of McGarry, Hubona is striving to chase down the school weight throw record. Both admit the top number, 19.81m, is an enormous throw. Michael Jarman, the Loyola athlete who set the record in 2010, happens to be a doctor. Hubona and Jarman are two representatives of a long line of pre-med throwers going through the program during McGarry’s tenure. McGarry said he believes the correlation is partly due to the fact that academically-motivated students are willing to dedicate their time and do the little things in training, a quality he seeks out in recruiting throwers.
“I’ve actually had quite a few athletes who were very similar to Stephen … I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve had that have thrown for us at Loyola’,” McGarry said.
Next year, Hubona will follow the trend and attend medical school to pursue a future career in medicine, but he’s looking to continue serving others in more ways than just one.
“I’m kind of planning on doing an Army scholarship with [medical school], so I’ll probably be serving after residency,” Hubona said.
Hubona will compete next in the weight throw at the Grand Valley State University Big Meet in Allendale, Michigan Feb. 9.