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Masterpieces
 

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Over the years that I have been coaching hurdles, there have been a number of hurdle races,  performances and other things connected with hurdling that have happened, which by their very nature were so unusual or extraordinary, I have decided to call them masterpieces. Here they are!  I am sure more will come and I'll add them as they do.

Quick Jumps To The List
Erin In The Sky With Hurdles
1-2-3-4-5 At Appalachian State
Showdown In Charlotte
Another 1/100's Of A Second Championship Race!
Cade Liverman -#1 In America
The Art of Hurdling
Shattering The Record At The Volunteer Classic

#3 NC Top 25 All-Time List 300M Hurdles
Hills 2008, A Masterpiece Of Dedication And Hard Work
The Improbable Happened

The First Five Hurdles
Matt Johnson -Pushing The Limits
The Improbable Happens Again -Perfect Timing
The Limits Of What Is Possible

 
   

Erin In The Sky With Hurdles

Erin in the Sky with Hurdles!Obviously one of the things that I have enjoyed doing while coaching is taking photographs of hurdlers in action. In 1998, while coaching hurdles for the A.C. Reynolds Middle School track team, I took a photograph of one of my middle school hurdlers, Erin Milam, practicing hurdling. Since it was a rather good shot of  her going over a hurdler from the side (Erin had superb hurdling form) I submitted it to a hurdles website which was requesting photos of hurdlers, and it ended up online in one their photo galleries. Three years lErin in Middle Schoolater, in 2001,  I received a phone call from an advertising agency in California that wanted permission to use this photograph in an  advertisement that would go in major aerospace publications. The ad was one that at that time was promoting a consortium of companies that were building SBIRS, the Space Based Infrared System -an early warning space based defense system that was aimed at protecting America from missile attack. The ad company was also willing to pay Erin and myself both $500 for use of the photograph! Needless to say, we both immediately agreed that it was a great idea! So, in April 2001, Erin appeared, $500 richer, hurdling over some satellites, about 100 miles above Earth, in a two-page color spreads in Aviation Week and Defense Weekly!
 

1-2-3-4-5 At Appalachian State University

Midget Division Girl Hurdles: Left to right, Courtney, Corey, Rebecca, Sophia and Lillian In the summer of 2001, the Asheville Lightning Track and Field TStart of 80M Hurdle race, JO State Championship Meeteam competed in the Junior Olympics State Championship meet  at Appalachian State University in Boone. That summer, I had five girls in the Midget Girls division (ages 11-12) that were running  the 80M hurdles, Courtney Walker, Corey Williams, Rebecca MacNair, Sophia Treakle and Lillian Williams (left to right in the photograph). All five 5 lanes in the middle!girls made it to the finals and to the astonishment of everyone, myself included, they finished one thru five in the that race! This not only got them medals and ribbons, but all five, because of their top-five finish, got to advance to the Regional Championship Meet.

The order of finish was Corey Williams (1st), Courtney Walker (2nd),After the race! Lillian Williams (3rd), Sophia Treakle (4th) and Rebecca MacNair (5th). It was great seeing the smiling faces on the girls as the  crowd cheered for them after the race, and not to be left out, as I was walking in the stands to get to the finish line area to congratulate the girls, I got an standing ovation and high-fives from some of the other track coaches that were there. It was a great moment for us all. 
 

 

Showdown In Charlotte

Cade Liverman 13-87 -2nd (left) and Kris Fant 13.86-1st, 110M Hurdles 2003 West NC 4A Regional ChampionshipsIn the spring of 2003, I had the good fortune of coaching at Reynolds both Cade Liverman and Kris Fant, two of the greatest high school hurdlers ever to come out of theCade and Kris, Regional Championship 110M Hurdles state of North Carolina. Both guys, best of friends, were virtually unbeatable that year in both the 110 and 300M hurdles, and were ranked first and second in the 110M hurdles in the state. As we got ready for the 4A Regional Championship meet, which was to be held  at Vance High School in Charlotte, a newspaper article appeared in The Charlotte Observer all about the coming showdown in the 110M hurdles at the meet, since the top six ranked hurdlers in the state would all be there, and only four could advance to the state meet. Cade and Kris were ranked #1 and 2, and they were the focus of attention, with Brandon Stokes of Butler High School,  another great hurdler and  ranked #3 in the state running fast enough to pull off an upset. The boy's 110 hurdles race was THE race of the meet...And sure enough, the day of the meet, the trash talking began from some of the Charlotte athletes, as if two guys from the mountains couldn't hang with the hurdlers from the big city... Needless to say, this just pissed Cade and Kris off and those guys got focused like I never saw them do before (and keep in mind these were really serious, "don't mess with me", athletes to begin with). It was high drama, and at that moment, I knew the outcome.... in spite of what some of the coaches and hurdlers in Charlotte Kris Fant, on right, with Cade Liverman were predicting.. There wasn't a high school hurdler on the planet that could have beaten those two that day. And sure enough, the race was over at the first hurdle... Both Cade and Kris went side by side the whole race, coming off each hurdler with the same lead leg, running lock step the entire race. At the finish, Kris beat Cade by only 1/100th of a second and they finished with the  fastest times yet for the state in the 110's -13.86 and 13.87 seconds.  And the frosting on the cake was the  huge full color photograph of Cade and Kris that appeared the next day in the sports section of the Charlotte newspaper, both of them coming off the last hurdle in that great race.  Supremely confident, Kris then went on to win the state title, while Cade got silver.

And the following year, after Kris had graduated, Cade came back and also won the state championship in the 110M Hurdles, once again beating Stokes who returned that year.

Another 1/100th Of A Second Championship Race

Sarah Owenby and Julie Osboren (foreground) finish of Conference Championship 300M HurdlesOne of the greatest hurdle races I ever saw was the 300M hurdles at the Conference Championship meet in 2005 Julie Osborne and Sarah Owenbyat Watauga High School, in Boone North Carolina. I had two great 300M hurdlers that year, Julie Osborne and Sarah Owenby. Throughout the season they ended up going 1-2 in virtually every 300M hurdle race, with Sarah winning one meet and Julie the next.

In almost a repeat of Cade and Kris's finish in Charlotte two years before, Sarah beat Julie to the finish line in only 1/100th of  second! A great race for two great champion hurdlers, both good friends. Sarah won the gold medal with a time of 49.07 sec. and Julie ran 49.08 right behind her.

Cade Liverman -#1 In America

Cade LivermanIt's not often that an athlete can claim to be #1 in America, irregardless of the sport or competition level. But for a few days, Cade Liverman, by winning the 55M hurdles race at the Eastern State Challenge at Chapel Hill , earned that distinction. Cade had a perfect start, ran a flawless race and ending up setting the meet record in 7.34 seconds and on that day became the #1 ranked high school boy hurdler in America.  But, like everything else in life, this too passed. A few days later, a hurdler in Michigan ran a race that was 2/100th of a second faster and Cade got bumped to the #2 ranking in the country, a place where he stayed for the 2004 season. Still, for a few days in the winter of 2004 Cade stood on the top of the mountain and nothing can ever change that. He had an extraordinary high school career at AC Reynolds as a hurdler, with four state titles to his name, two in the 55M hurdles in the 2003 and 2004 indoor season, and both the 110 and 300M Hurdles in the 2004 outdoor season.

The Art Of Hurdling 

If this website has a logo, it is one that was designed by some former hurdlers of mine. In 2003, Liza Schillo, Meghan Stevens and Michelle Peterson approached me about doing a t-shirt for the girl hurdlers on the A.C. Reynolds Track team. Liza had come up with a really cool design of a girl hurdling (Meghan had added the spikes) that is shown to the left. It sounded like a fun  idea so I went ahead and had some shirts printed up with the  words "Reynolds Hurdlers" in bold letters printed on the front, Liza'sLiza Schillo, Sarah Owenby, Meghan Stevens and Michelle Peterson little logo on the sleeve and a whole bunch of crazy sayings about life in the world of track and field that the girl's had come up with on the back, along with names of the hurdlers on the team. The shirt was a great hit and  there are probably a few of them still floating around. By now, they would collector's items I would think.

Chapter two in the evolution of this particular design was my decision to use it as a  logo on my cap and so I went ahead, found a place that did custom caps and stuck it on the front. The cap has turned out to be a conversation starter, and over the years, at various meets I have had a number of other hurdles coaches, including  Curtis Frye (the former head sprints coach for our Olympic team), ask me where they could get one! I also put in on some coaches shirts and it seems to fit that situation also.

However, the last landing place of this little hurdler is on a far more perennial location than a cap or a shirt -it now resides permanently on the inside ankle of my left leg, thanks to the artists at Empire Tattoos in downtown Asheville. Getting a hurdler design as a tattoo might seem a bit extreme but then again I seem to be a littlMile long Nazca image in the desert in Perue over the edge in my passion for coaching hurdles (witness this website) so why not. Most people think it is a Chinese hieroglyph since it is turned sideways on my leg and that's ok. Those that ask what it is just give me an opportunity to talk about coaching hurdles!

Not sure where the next stop for this great little design will be... Maybe a billboard on  Interstate 40 coming into the mountains from the Piedmont, or perhaps even better, scratched out monumentally  in the Mohave Desert like those mysterious ancient mile-long figures found in the Nazca Desert in Peru which can only be seen from the air! One of these Nazca  carvings can be seen in the photo shown above. It is of a monkey and it stretches for many miles in the desert!

Shattering The Record At The Volunteer Classic

Juliana, Julie, Sarah and Vonda after record setting raceIn 2004, I took a Hurdle Shuttle Relay team composed of Juliana Haile, Julie Osborne, Sarah Owenby and Vonda Harrison to the Volunteer Classic, a hugeJuliana and Sarah, Start of record setting Shuttle Hurdle Race outdoor track meet at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. All four girls could  three-step, with Julie, Sarah and Vonda running the 100 hurdles in the mid 15 second range, and Juliana, a freshman, running in the mid 17's. To everyone's surprise, they won the meet just a few tenths of a second off the record! At that point, since all four girls were returning next year, THE mission was clear! Take down the meet record! And in 2005, they did. The record had stood for over 15 years and it was now Reynolds'. They shattered it by over four seconds running  1:05.04, a time that put them among the top ten girl's high school teams in the country. Juliana ran the first leg, Vonda the second, Sarah the third and Julie was the closer.

As a fascinating footnote to all of this, in 2007, a team from the Girl's Preparatory School in Tennessee, also won the Hurdle Shuttle Relay at this meet, in exactly the same time -1:05.04 seconds. So right now, both teams share the record. An improbable occurrence, to say the least. Magic on the track...

#3 NC Top 25 All-Time List 300M Hurdles

Sophia, after winning 100M Hurdles the day she ran 43.15 in 300M HurdlesAt the 3A State Meet, on Friday May 16th, 2008, Sophia Treakle, ran one of the most perfectly executed 300M hurdle races I have ever seen, and ended up not only with a state title and a state record but also with another unique distinction.

A really fast 300M hurdles race has to have a supremely fast start, asGetting rid of lactic acid in the legs after the 300M Hurdles preliminary race. Legs up! well as hitting the first hurdle with the desired lead leg, usually the "A" or dominant leg. Since she was concerned about this happening, she and I had spent time before the meet working on her run in to the first hurdle  With the help of two of my star A.C. Reynolds hurdlers Erin McKee and Whitney Stafford challenging her in practice runs, she had been able to consistently  touchdown off the first hurdle in 6.5 to 6.8 seconds. We knew that if she nailed the start that fast, then once the race got rolling, with her great conditioning, near flawless hurdling and fierce determination, she would not only be tough to beat but the record could fall. 

And in the finals, she roared out of the blocks, hit the first hurdle perfectly in 6.6 seconds and never looked back. This superior start had to have happened, since another former 300M hurdle champion was also running in the race, Manika Gamble of Jacksonville High School.  Manika, a senior, had beaten Sophia in the same race in 2006 running 44.63, when Sophia was a freshman, and it goes without saying that Manika more than likely had come to this race confident because of that fact, even though two years had passed and the two girls had not raced each other since that time.

Both hurdlers were together virtually side by side coming off the curve down the home stretch, with Sophia maintaining a slight lead. It was a classic, incredibly exciting finish! But at the 8th hurdle, the race was definitively settled once and for all. Sophia hit it instinctively, and flawlessly, while Manika faltering slightly. In a flash, Sophia soared across the finish line in an astonishing  time of 43.15 seconds, shattering the former state record of 43.70. The race was so fast that both girls had beaten the  record, with Manika coming in at 43.66. But it was Sophia's day, and the record and title were hers, having run a perfect race with no mistakes. The kind of race where records fall...

And later that day, I checked the NC Prep Track Top-25 List (www.ncpreptrack.com) and to my astonishment found out that her time was so fast it had moved her up on the All-Time NC Top 25 List in the Women's 300M Hurdles from #25 to #3, right behind the great former Olympic 400M hurdler Brenda Taylor, who had run for Watauga High School in the late 1990's.

HILLS 2008-A Masterpiece Of Dedication And Hard Work

Hannah Sayles, Hillary Roark, Lexi Harvin an Whitney Stafford, 2008 Hills
I often get asked how  so many of my hurdlers seem to get soQueens of the Hill! fast, even if they start out as the slowest ones on the team. Well, the answer is really simple, and I am sure coaches all over the world would agree...it's not just all talent and coaching but just as importantly dedication and hard work by the athlete, especially in the off season. Which brings us to the concept of "hills". About ten years ago, one of the greatest hurdle coaches of all time, Curtis Frye, Head Coach at the University of South Carolina, let me in on a secret. "If you really want your hurdlers to get faster, have them run hills in the fall. It's that simple" So I took his advice to heart and was astonished to see that it really worked. So this is what my hurdlers in the fall do before indoor season starts, providing of course they are not in some fall sport.

From September to the start of indoor track, in mid-November, we work out twice a week, Mondays and Thursday, doing extremely strenuous plyometric drills followed by sprinting as fast as they can up a  shallow hill. The jumps are a variety of standard jumps THE hill in the background. The group was joined occasionally by Tasha and Terran, increasing the number of repetitions every week. These are followed by sprinting up the hill, which you can see in the thumbnailed photo to the right. They start out on the flat, run for 30 meters to get to top speed and then drive up the  hill, running as fast as they can for as long as they can. .The core concept for choosing a shallow hill is to allow them to continue to sprint, under pressure. If the hill is too steep, then that will not happen. Essentially this is weight training on the run. Each run is followed by three minutes recovery and back up again. It is so strenuous, and in the interest of avoiding too much shock and muscle trauma at first, the first session is only 3 hills, adding one hill every week, working towards 8 or more as the goal. Running the hill is easily three or four times more strenuous than running the same distance on the flat. And in the fall of 2008, I had the privilege of coaching the toughest bunch of athletes ever do my hills workout -hurdlers
Hannah Sayles, Lexi Harvin, Hillary Roark
,
Whitney Stafford and sprinter Lauren Harris. These girls were simply amazing in their dedication and commitment,  and were tough enough to end up running 12 hills in the last three sessions, far more than had ever been done by any group I have coached.

All in all, in just over two  months, they logged an astonishing 10,000 meters running at full speed up that hill! Add to that over 2000 plyometric jumps, and also 2,000 meters running backward up another really steep hill and it all adds up to a masterpiece of hard work and dedication. And so Whitney, Hannah, Hillary, Lexi and Lauren are now permanently enshrined in my hurdle mythology as the  toughest hills group I've ever coached. Gonna be some big PR's for these girls next spring!!

Whitney Stafford    Hannah Sayles    Hillary Roark    Lexi Harvin    Lauren Harris

The Improbable Happened
Joel Wadopian and Sean Kennedy www.greathurdlers.comSometimes the strangest things can happen, right in the middle of what we consider "ordinary" life. In 2007, two hurdlers on the A.C. Reynolds team pulled an unexpected 1-2 finish in both the 110M and 300M Hurdles in the Northwest Conference Championship meet. The two hurdlers were Joel Wadopian, whSean Kennedy ( left)  and Joel Wadopian (Center) om I had coached since his freshman year, and who I expected to win the 300M Hurdles, and Sean Kennedy, who only started hurdling his senior year. Sean had taken to the hurdles like a duck to water and to my amazement, he finished right behind Joel in both of the championship races. And here is where it gets strange....at the time I did not know it but both Joel and Sean shared the exact same birthday -January 21st! The odds against two guys having the same birthday, and both running 110M Hurdles for the first time ever in their senior years and then going 1-2 in both the 110 and 300M hurdle races at the same meet, are extremely high I would think. All in all, one of those marvelous little coincidences that leave you wondering.
That's Joel on the left in an earlier meet, and Sean in the black shirt and white hat, eclipsed by Joel's right arm, cheering him on in the stands. These were two great athletes, and also great persons.

The First Five Hurdles...
Regional Champions Erin McKee, Brittany Carroll and Whitney Stafford
Saturday May 16th, 2009 was a day I shall never forget. It was the 4A West Regional Championship meet, which this year was being held at Reynolds High School. And as it is every year, everything indicated that it was going to be a real dog fight in the 300M hurdles. Only the top 4 hurdlers advance to the  State Meet and incoming times indicated that at least ten girls had 300M Hurdle times of 48 seconds or faster... A loaded field to say the least. Finishing in the top 4 going to be tough. Personally for me as a coach it was especially problematic since I  would have three of my hurdlers, Brittany Carroll of Harding University and my two stars from Reynolds, Erin McKee and Whitney Stafford, on the track that day.  All three would have to be in the top four.... Not a lot of room for error.

Brittany, whom I have helped on and off for a couple of years now, was a certainty to advance since she had by far the fastest incoming time and while Erin and Whitney both had strong 48 second races under their belts, so did the other incoming hurdlers. The real challenge lay in front of them, more so than for Brittany. However, both Erin and Whitney had proven to me time and time again what great focused and dedicated athletes they both were, and if anyone could do it, I felt theyWhitney & Erin, 400 Hurdles, JO Developmental Meet 2009 could. Part of their strength I believe came from their friendship and mutual support, something I had seen in years past with other great duos I have coached. Cade Liverman and Kris Fant in particular, two guys that had stunned everyone at the 2003 Regional Championship with their unbelievable 13.86 & 13.87 1-2 finish in the 110M hurdles final.

And so technical preparation began in earnest the two weeks before the meet. Erin and Whitney raced side by side over the first 5 hurdles repeatedly, challenging themselves to get to the 5th as fast as they could and to feel how that part of the race needed to be run. Brittany also came to Asheville the weekend before the meet and joined in these race simulations. All three girls clearly understood how critical that first part of the race is, that in the 300M hurdles you want to coming off the 5th hurdle in front of everyone, and to  make them chase you. In the last few days of workouts leading up to the meet, all three were touching down off the hurdle in the 26-28 range consistently so I felt they were prepared.

And on race day the hard work paid off. All three girls advanced to the finals with fast times -Brittany 45.38, Whitney 47.20 and Erin 47.89 (3 PRs),  and when the gun went off in the finals, the race was over at the 5th hurdle. All three came off  it far ahead of the rest of the field and never looked back. They ended up going 1-2-3, with Brittany running 45.55, Whitney 47.11 and Erin 48.20. An happy ending to a drama that had been rehearsed over and over again the previous  weeks. Great work by a talented trio of superstars, all with bright college futures in the hurdles -Erin at Cornell, Whitney at UNCA and Brittany at the University of Pittsburg.


Matt Johnson -Pushing The Limits
Matt Johnson -Hills 2010In the fall of 2010, A. C. Reynolds Sophomore Matt Johnson, one of the hurdlers doing my fall "Hills" workout, took things to a new level. This program consists of bi-weekly workouts of multiple plyometric jumps (tuck jumps, frog hops and so on), repeat runs at top speed up an inclined 60-meter hill with little recovery, followed by runs backwards up an even steeper hill with even less recovery. Each workout takes about an hour and a half, and  and the number of repetitions are increased at each session. It is arguably one of the hardest track and field workouts around, just ask anyone who has tried it. Think of it as weight training on the run....Those who survive this intense program come out faster and stronger as a result, and that makes for faster more explosive hurdling. This off-season program was not something I dreamed up but was given to me by one of the greatest hurdles coaches in the world, Curtis Frye of the University of South Carolina, and it works!

This year, because of good weather, we were able to get in more workouts than usual before the start of indoor track. I had a great group of hurdlers this year running the program. To their credit, all of them stayed with most of the workouts. These included Mario Swann, Mandy Baird, Miranda Norlin, Leslie Frempong, her 6th grade sister Anu (Junior Olympics age group hurdler) and former middle school champion freshman Mariah Richardson, as well as Matt. Matt however, was able to make every single session of the workouts and at the end racked up bigger numbers than had ever been done before, and that includes the hills workouts done by former superstar hurdlers Cade Liverman, Sophia Treakle, Erin Mckee, Julie Osborne, Whitney Stafford, Joel Wadopian and Liza Schillo! And that is one scary awesome list!! At the last session, Matt was up to 13 runs on the hill, one more than had ever been done before. In addition to this, over the course of the two-month program, he ran a total of 140 hills -going forwards and backwards, and did over 2000 of the  plyometric jumps, a staggering number by anyone's standards.

The Improbable Happens Again -Perfect TimingHurdling sisters Leslie and Anu Frempong
Sometimes little things happen that are so improbable they cause us to step back in amazement, wondering how and why. This was the case for me on a beautiful spring day in March, 2012. The AC Reynolds Girl's Track Team had competed in a meet at NorthLeslie, off the 3rd hurdle, on her way to victory Buncombe High School, and Leslie Frempong, my star senior hurdler, won her first ever 100M hurdles race. It was a happy occasion for us both, since over the years, even with steady improvement through hours and hours of hard work, Leslie had never finished first. Lot of 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes but never #1 But on that Tuesday she did it with near perfect technique, beating out 23 other hurdlers, and  running a big personal best as well.

Little did we know that at the same time, at a middle school meet just a few miles away,, Anu, her younger sister and a 7th grader on the Reynolds Middle School team, had just won her first ever 55M hurdles race as well. Also running a personal best as well. At practice the next day we all laughed about the strangeness and perfectness of it all. Two sisters, running at the same time on different tracks, and both coming in first in the hurdles for the first time ever!  Perfect timing to say the least!

The Limits Of What Is Possible

 

 

 

 

 



 



On April 24, 2013, at the Mountain Athletic Conference Championship, AC Reynolds Junior Mariah Richardson did something quite remarkable. She won the 100M hurdles race (16.10 seconds, f.a.t), an amazingly fast time for a 4-step hurdler. Coaches who know hurdles recognize that running the 100M hurdles using a 4-step pattern is invariably much slower than someone using the desired 3-step pattern -the 4-step hurdler has to run a minimum of 10 additional steps with their stride pattern greatly shortened. This usually places limits on just how fast they can run the race. It is exceedingly rare for a high school girl to run anywhere near 16:00 seconds using a 4-step pattern, most of the time their races are run between 20 and 17 seconds. On the other hand, for elite high school girl hurdlers  running the desired 3-step pattern, running 16 seconds is relatively easy to achieve.  In all of my years of coaching hurdles and watching hurdle races, the fastest time I had ever seen for someone 4-stepping the women's 100M hurdles was 16.21 seconds, and that was just once in 20 years.  Mariah, by running 16.10, in my experience, may have reached "the limits of what is possible" in 4-stepping the 100M hurdles race. Quite extraordinary from my perspective.
     How did it happen? The answer lay not only in Mariah's great athletic ability and determination, but also with whom she had to run against in this  meet -rising super-star hurdler for T.C. Roberson, Kendall Soule, who runs the hurdles using the desired 3-step pattern. Kendall however at the time of this meet was just beginning to master the 3-step pattern ,and both girls were both running about the same times -mid to low 16 seconds. So the stage was set for an exciting race! Mariah  had also begun to 3-step the hurdles last year, but had struggled somewhat this year, and had settled for the 4-step pattern in the short hurdles, focusing instead on the 300M hurdles.  Prior to the meet, both she and I realized that trying to work on 3-stepping would be fruitless if she wanted to be competitive with Kendall -there was not enough time to master that pattern. Instead we decided to focus on increasing Mariah's turnover using her usual 4-step pattern, hoping that if she ran the race of her life she might prevail.
.   The strategy worked, and Mariah was able to keep up with Kendall the whole race, and ending up winning by .06 seconds! A great race and without both girls challenging each other, I am convinced Mariah's incredible 16.10 seconds would never have happened. A perfect example of how close competition always brings out the strongest performances. No records are ever set, nor historic races run, without close competition. Mariah and Kendall's race was no exception, and both girls ran personal bests. And when the dust had settled, a masterpiece of  a race had been  run, and the limits of what is possible clearly approached!