The men’s track team has some of the most unique and accomplished athletes at Cornell – a vast collection of long distance runners, triple jumpers, high jumpers, pole vaulters and throwers – but perhaps the most overlooked athletes are those who combine the speed of sprinters, the stamina of mid-distance runners, the strength of jumpers and the flexibility unmatched by anyone aside from themselves: the hurdlers.
The quartet of sophomores Adam Seabrook, Aaron Merrill, junior captain Kolby Hoover and senior Greg Simonds spend the outdoor season running the 400 intermediate hurdles, arguably one of the most grueling events in track and field.
“The toughest guys in track and field are found in the 400 hurdles,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor. “It is a very demanding event both physically and psychologically.”
All four men have come to terms with the difficulties of their event and have succeeded despite them.
“They don’t mind coming to practice three or four days a week knowing their brains are going to explode and that they’re going to puke,” Taylor said. “They know their fingertips will go numb and their legs are not going to work, but they keep going.”
In their first seasons at Cornell last year, Seabrook and Merrill emerged as dominant hurdlers both in the Ivy League and in the region – which spans from Maine to Florida. Indoors, Seabrook set a new school record in the open 400. He has also impressed outdoors, winning the Heps 400 hurdles event with a time of 52 seconds, placing him fourth all-time at Cornell. Merrill, who competes in the 110 meter high hurdles as well, is sixth all-time in the intermediates (52.21 seconds) and seventh all-time in the highs.
Although they train together nearly every day and have virtually the same experience, Seabrook and Merrill hold very different strengths when is comes to the actual race.
“Hurdling itself is the most difficult part for me,” Seabrook said. “I rely more on my speed.”
This is in part because Seabrook does not work as much on the technical aspects of hurdling in comparison to Merrill, mostly because Merrill does the high hurdles in addition to the longer race. Because he does both hurdle races, however, Merrill is not able to concentrate on either event all at once.
“A lot of times I have to split time between stamina workouts and technical drills for the high hurdles, so I really have to sacrifice,” Merrill said.
Regardless of where their strengths lie, both Seabrook and Merrill understand the hard work it takes to be successful in their events as well as the fine line they must dance between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough when it comes to hurdling. They know how much effort it takes to get from one hurdle to the next, and precisely how many strides are between each barrier.
“Counting the steps between helps me to keep my mind off of how hard the race is,” Merrill said.
Along with Hoover and Simonds, Merrill and Seabrook should make for an interesting 400-meter hurdle race this weekend at the Heptagonal Championships in Philadelphia. Simonds and Seabrook each have one individual title in the event under their belts – Simonds in 2004 and Seabrook in 2005. The four Red hurdlers represent four of the top-5 performances in the conference this season.
“All four of us want to run a school record – it’s like 50 years old,” Seabrook said. “All four of us have a chance. To have four guys at once who have a chance of breaking it is pretty impressive.”
Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer