My Why – Nick Hauger

2020 / 05 / 27


Goals, the pursuit of self-improvement, leading and inspiring others — all are things that keep me going day today. I often start my day thinking of those who may need inspiration or leading during tough times. I like to think of myself as an example for them in whatever way I can. I also strive for goals that are in my own self-interest such as external achievements, but as I’ve learned time and time again, those types of motivators don’t hold up well while pushing to your absolute limits.

I think many have a “why”. Maybe it’s similar to some of the things listed above, or, maybe you don’t have one at all. For me, my why came in a manner I would’ve never expected and it boils down to one simple statement:

For those who can’t be with us.

Ian Andres was a fellow Spokane runner attending a different high school than mine. I attended Shadle Park, and he attended Gonzaga Prep. The only thing I knew about him in high school was that he happened to be another good runner, and when I faced him in races, I wanted to beat him. We raced each other often, and I found that I beat him on many occasions. To his credit, he was always a mere few seconds behind me, sometimes even closer. I even remember a home track meet where he and I decided mid-race to trade off laps in a 3200m race to block the wind for each other. We never discussed the finish, so I simply took over with 2 laps to go and narrowly held him off for the win. That’s who we were — a couple of high school runners, meeting at similar races, pushing each other to be better.

In what seemed like fate, during our senior season we both took a visit to the University of Portland. We loved it. The team was great, had great history, and the University itself offered great academics. After leaving, we both felt a strong pull to this University. Ian committed a week after the visit and I followed suit a few weeks later. A few months, we became roommates. We had class together. We were both biology majors. We ran together. We had goals to become All-Americans together. It was an incredible thing, two rival high school runners turned teammates, now pushing each other to pursue big things. I dreamt of us elevating this already great team we had joined, and I know he had the same vision I did.

From Right to Left: Fabian, Ian, Carter, and myself our freshman year.

After many shenanigans our freshman year and the team earning its first podium finish in school history (3rd), we went into the following summer with a chip on our shoulders. We knew our opportunity was coming soon to fill the shoes of the seniors that had set the bar so high that previous year. I went home to stay in Spokane for the summer to work and train while Ian stayed back in Portland to work and train as well. Separately, we put in some of the most consistent training we had ever put together. I couldn’t wait to be with him and the crew again to showcase some of this fitness and to be a team again.

I, along with most of the team, returned to campus about a week before class was supposed to start. The first morning of practice we all met up for a run in Forest Park. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I simply remember feeling the excitement of being with the team again. Everything felt right.

After practice that day, Ian told me he would see me later. He was going to see the trainer because his knee was bothering him on the run. The next day, I didn’t hear from him or see him at practice. Assuming he was cross training we went on the day’s run like normal. We returned to campus and before heading to the locker room, coach informed us that we were having a surprise team meeting. We all thought we were in trouble. At the meeting, Coach RC stood before the team in our traditional meeting hall. Looking shaken he addressed us with this, “I’m not sure how best to tell you all this. But we got a call this morning from the local police, and Ian has unfortunately passed away. He took his life. Someone found his body in Forest Park this morning.”

You would think that the news would have hit me immediately, but for some reason it didn’t. In hindsight, it was probably shock that I was experiencing. The first thing I could think to do was console my friend Carter who was in the same class as Ian and I and had lived with Ian all summer. He was sobbing. All I remember from the meeting following coach’s announcement was when Coach RC pulled me in for a hug before I left and said “Hauger I am so sorry man”. It was then that it all finally hit me. I felt the world crash down on me. I couldn’t think straight. I exploded with tears. In the shock of it all, my nose started bleeding profusely. I stumbled to my dorm and cried with my other teammate. It all didn’t seem real.

I have never experienced a pain that deep. I didn’t sleep for two days. I had no appetite. I was in a constant fog. I was separated from the real world. So many people reached out via text asking what happened that I never responded to. I couldn’t do it. I felt that if I didn’t answer, I wouldn’t have to relive it, yet I was experiencing it constantly in my own head. Running on the team that season was really hard. There was a sadness that constantly hung over the group. Coach RC left Ian’s locker intact and untouched in the locker room. It was the first thing I looked at when I entered and the last thing I looked at when I would leave. The funerals came and went. The tears and sadness eventually subsided. But my memory of him remains.

I am not sure when or if there was ever an actual moment where I decided my why. But ultimately, I promised myself that I would run for him. I promised myself to carry out the goals and dreams we spoke of.

With two team trophies and two All-American finishes plus a team culture that will last forever, I know Ian would be proud of what Portland and I were able to accomplish. And ultimately I felt his presence every step of the way. Knowing Ian though, he always wanted more. So here I am, pursuing bigger goals than ever before. Not for myself, but for us, and for those who can’t be with us.

Be kind to one another. Be there for one another. Live for one another. For we know not what others are feeling, experiencing and ultimately hiding from the world.

A Word

from the Author

There’s more to this story than what is read. This was really hard for me to write and is something only a few people actually know about me. While I wrote this in the direction of explaining my why, it does not take away from the difficulty of losing someone so close to us. It should go without saying that this affected a lot more than just me; an entire community lost a great person, from Portland up to Spokane. On many occasions I looked inward and asked myself what more I could have done to help him. That tore me apart for a long time. It took me 4 years to go to counseling. I didn’t speak to anyone about losing Ian for a long time. That’s not something I’m proud of. The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month. Something I have worked tirelessly on is compassion and connection. We never know what others are hiding beneath the surface — hell, even I put on my happy face from time to time in order to hide what I may be feeling. As scary as it might seem, counseling, and reaching out for help are incredible things we can do for others and ourselves. For myself, I eventually felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and ultimately empowered by the act of asking for help. So now I ask you, if you or someone you know is struggling, reach out for help. Better yet, once you finish reading I want you to reach out to 3 people you know and simply ask “hey how are you doing?” No one should feel alone in life. A simple question can go a long way. I am here if you need anything: 509-385-6367 or

Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

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