Rick Hitchcock’s two mile record time of 9 minutes 12.1 seconds that he set as a senior in 1968 still stands today. That’s a forty-six year old record at North High. Before he graduated, Rick had piled up the awards in both track and cross country. Between 1964 and 1968, he ran on the varsity teams in both sports all four years, was MVP in track all four years, and, MVP in cross country for three of those years.
Rick’s accomplishments as a runner at North were many. While running on the varsity track team, and, always in the two mile, he was a three-time SYL Champion, a two–time Division and C.I.F. Valley Champion, and placed seventh in the State Meet his senior year where he set the school record. His high school coach, Stan Ingram, has said that he knew whatever race Rick was in, he could count on him to be at the front or very near the front of the race. This 4’10” 98 pound runner was “just like a machine” according to Coach Ingram; very driven and sometimes like a “vicious animal” if he had to come from behind, a place he didn’t like to be.
As a cross country runner, Rick earned the title of SYL Champion his sophomore, junior and senior years, and Divisional Champ his junior and senior years. As a culmination of all of his hard work and dedication to his sports, he was award the prestigious Sam Lynn Award for the top male athlete in 1968.
After graduating from North High, Rick went on to win the Metropolitan Conference and Southern California Regional J.C. cross country races as a freshman at Bakersfield College. That same year he placed second at the State Cross Country Meet and was named the Metropolitan Conference Cross Country Runner of the Year. Rick started off his junior college track season just as well by winning the Metro Conference one mile and 2 mile races, the So Cal two mile in 8:59.6, and the State Meet two mile in a time of 9:06.4 minutes. He was once again awarded the Conference trophy for Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Rick’s sophomore year, he went undefeated in J.C. cross country winning at the prestigious Mt. Sac Invitational where he ran 18:52 for four miles; a time that was rarely seen back then according to his Cross country coach, Bob Covey. He went on to win the Metro Conference Meet, the So Cal Meet, and, the first State Meet held at Fresno’s Woodward Park in a time of 19:49 minutes for four miles. That year, he received the Conference trophy for Cross Country Runner of the Year again. Track season his sophomore year started out with Rick dominating the early races in the mile and two mile, but, an injury to his Achilles tendon got him off the track for a three week rest. Even after his injury, he still competed in the State Meet and placed second in the mile that year.
In the fall of 1970, Rick transferred to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and became a five-time All American. On April 31, 1972 the “K-State” Distance Medley team won at the Drake Relays in a World Record time of 9:31.8 with Rick running the third leg (three quarters of a mile) in 2:55.4.
Following his tenure at Kansas State, Rick ran as a professional for the International Track Association which had just been founded making it the first time in history that track athletes were paid to perform. The ITA had several meets over the next two years in Europe and Asia but closed after that due to lack of financial support. Once Rick became a professional athlete, he could no longer compete as an amateur. Those rules were changed a few years later, but, by then his life was heading in a different direction.
Rick Hitchcock loved a challenge and loved to win, and, that’s what made him a force to be reckoned with on the track or in cross country. With his B.C. and Kansas State careers, Rick must be considered as one of the top distance runners to ever come out of Bakersfield and Kern County. He is also a member of the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, the RenegadeTrack and Field Hall of Fame, and, still resides in Bakersfield.