Aaron Hubbard was your typical little leaguer growing up — he played football, soccer, basketball and baseball.

Track? That would come later.

But cross country, one of his true passions, that came naturally.

"I actually got interested in it when my brother (Andrew) was at Southside (2007-09)," Hubbard said. "I went and watched his meets. My dad (Cliff) ran in high school in Chicago (Libertyville), and they were very successful in high school.

"I guess it was in my genetics."

Hubbard and his Southside teammates will run for fun today at the Survivor's 5K Challenge as they prepare for the conference meet (Oct. 23).

The 7A-Central meet is slated to begin a week from Monday in Little Rock.

"Road races are a lot different than cross country," Hubbard said. "Hopefully this year turns out different for me. I was third my sophomore year, and last year I was second.

"Hopefully, I'll come out (first) overall this year."

Hubbard, whose top time this spring is 18:14, is one of two seniors that embrace the Mavericks' program. One of his attributes is lead within.

"I try to work hard in practice and encourage everybody," he said. "If somebody is having a bad day, I'll try to run an extra set so they'll feel better. It's easier to talk it through with someone else."

Hubbard, a track standout as well who excels in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, was fully engrossed with football during his junior high run with the Chaffin Cougars, a three-year dynasty that saw the program boast a 32-3 record.

Weekend road races weren't in the cards then.

"I was doing football Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I was exhausted by the end of the week," he said. "It was hard to get out of bed on Saturdays."

Hubbard competed in his first 5K race in Greenwood in 2015.

"I ran in the July 4 'Freedom Fest' in Greenwood, and I was first in my age group," Hubbard said. "I didn't think I was very good, but the timing begged to differ. I was very surprised. It was my first long distance race ever."

Hubbard ran track at Chaffin in junior high and, after his sophomore year of cross country, he saw his 800 times improve the following spring.

"I decided to do cross country that fall (2015) and my times improved greatly in the spring during track season," Hubbard said.

Like cross country, the 800 can be a beast.

"That (final) 300 meters really can define yourself," Hubbard said. "You really dig deep and find what you're made of."

While the 800 and others aren't without their difficulties, cross country presents numerous problems: wet dew, hills, wind, rain.

Sometimes, there is mud.

"It's the constant battle in your brain, telling yourself you can do it," Hubbard said. "Going up a hill, you have to plan. You need better race planning."

Hubbard began planning for the fall with grueling summer runs.

"We started training in June, doing sand workouts at East Side Baptist (Church) to strengthen our ankles," he said. "We have two seniors, and you can see the bond between each of us. We're always cheering for each other, and we have five or six juniors coming up, and they're going to be strong next year."