Oh, but they make it look so easy to run the hurdles.
The good ones fly down the track and take each hurdle in stride, gliding over the obstruction, one leg stretched out in front, torso leaning forward with arms churning in rhythm. It’s not a leap, even though they’re airborne. It’s a high stride, and that front leg snaps down to continue the sprint toward the next hurdle, and the next.
“It looks easy just to watch because you don’t see all the bruised shins and falls,” East Valley boys track coach Dave McCarty said. “It takes a lot of work to make it look that easy. The hurdles aren’t an event that you just take up and are suddenly good at. It takes years.”
That, he said, is why coaches are always trying to identify hurdlers early.
“Brandon Blize is our hurdles coach and is excellent at identifying hurdlers,” McCarty said. “You look for sprinters first, since speed is crucial to running hurdles. But it’s not necessarily about being the best sprinter. The best hurdlers are good sprinters, but not the best sprinters. What they learn is the technique of running over the hurdle and getting back in stride as quickly as they can so they can keep powering themselves forward.”
Beau Somers has been running the hurdles since seventh grade, and the EV senior is still finding little things to fix and improve as he tries to power himself forward in his final high school season.
“I’d seen college track on television and I was fascinated by the hurdles,” he said. “I wanted to do it, and in seventh grade, when we were first able to go out for track, I asked to do the hurdles.”
He’s been working diligently at it since then, and he thinks he has a better time or two still in him as he starts the Class 2A postseason.
Somers qualified for the state meet a year ago, turning in a time of 16.22 seconds in the 110 high hurdles and 41.75 in the 300 intermediates at state.
“I had a good experience at state,” he said. “I didn’t run my best times there and that was a little disappointing. But I learned what it was like to run with a field like you get at state. I have a better understanding of the psychological aspects of running at state.”
“Beau has been a great competitor,” McCarty said. “He’s one of those kids who is totally dedicated to making himself better. He works at it and keeps working at it. Some kids will work at it for a while and then leave it for the next day. We sometimes have to tell Beau that he’s done enough for the day.
“Right now it’s all about finding an extra tenth of a second somewhere. It’s about fine tuning.”
Blize, himself a former state champion, offers a two-for-one deal to Somers. He’s an excellent technician in the hurdles, with doses of inspiration thrown in for good measure.
“I have total confidence in my coach and I trust my teammates,” Somers said. “I will watch myself on tape once in a while, but mostly I trust what my coaches tell me on how to improve.
“Having someone who won a state championship helping me is inspiring. I know he can help me get back to state and, with some luck, win a state championship myself.”
For his part, Somers is waiting for all the hard work to come together at one time on the track.
“I’ve had a few nagging injuries this year that I haven’t had before,” he said. “The cold weather does hold you back a little, but for me it’s also given me the chance to heal up a little.”
Somers’s times coming into the district tournament are competitive: 15.54 in the 110, 41.54 in the 300.
“I think I can improve one or two tenths of a second in the 110s,” he said. “And it’s optimistic, but I like to think I can still knock a second off my time in the 300s.”
In the competitive world of the hurdles, a tenth of a second or two in the 110 hurdles makes a big difference. A second in the 300 hurdles could mean the difference between finishing fifth and first.
And while Somers is focused on the hurdles, if his teammates need him, he’s more than willing to jump in and help out with a relay or two.
“Beau is one of those kids who really understands what track and field is all about,” McCarty said. “He’s always willing to jump in and help out in any event we might need him in. He’s been running in the 4x100 relay for us and he’s been lobbying hard to get into the 4x400.
“I’m always glad to help my teammates out any time I can,” he said. “And I love it when the team is having a good meet. That always helps inspire me to go faster.
“Right now, I may not be the favorite to win. But I like to think the other competitors know that they have to keep an eye on me because they know I can go faster than I have been.”