November 29, 2006

M. Track Hurdlers Make Leaps and Bounds

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After a tremendous all-around performance at the outdoor Heps last season, in which the men’s track team’s hurdlers captured the top-4 finishes in the 400-meter event, the hurdling squad is looking to put together another prolific campaign. The core of the team includes four upperclassmen who have won individual Heps championships, senior co-captain Kolby Hoover, and juniors Saidu Ezike, Aaron Merrill and Adam Seabrook.

Hoover was elected a co-captain by his teammates for the second-consecutive season.

“I’m honored. I was thrilled to be captain as a junior and now that I have experience as a captain, I hope to be a good leader,” Hoover said.

Hoover’s strongest event is the 500 meters, an event which he hopes to set the school record in this season. However, he is also proficient in the 400-meter hurdles. His personal-best finish in the event is 53.1 seconds, he believes he can improve on the time which he earned last season.

“My 400-meter times haven’t come close to my potential,” he said. “I want to break 52 seconds.”

A season ago, Merrill won the Walker Smith Trophy, given to the team’s most valuable hurdler. Merrill excels in all three individual hurdling events and won the outdoor Heps championship in the 400-meter hurdles last season by running in a personal-best time of 51.85 seconds. The current school record is 51.1 seconds.

“I have a pretty good chance to break the record,” Merrill said. “I improved a lot between my freshman and sophomore years and am hoping to continue to improve.”

During the off-season, Merrill focused on improving his technique in the 60-meter and 110-meter hurdles. While Merrill’s best times in those two events are a solid 8.24 seconds and 14.46 seconds, respectively, he admits that the team’s strongest competitor in those events is classmate Saidu Ezike.

“He is by far our best competitor in the 60-meter and 110-meter hurdles,” Merrill said.

Ezike is the school record-holder in 60 meters, finishing in 7.98 seconds. Ezike also owns the third-fastest finish in school history for the 110-meter hurdles with a 14.21 second performance.

Fellow junior Adam Seabrook placed second in the 400-meter hurdles at Heps last year. His time of 51.90 seconds was a personal best. Seabrook won the Hank Russell award last year as the team’s top sprinter.

Former Red hurdlers Brandon Earle ’06 and Greg Simonds ’06 are no longer with the team, however a group of promising freshmen is poised to make-up for the lost contributions.

Ben Yeh competes in both the short and long hurdling events and according to Hoover, “has a lot of potential.” Olamide Williams is looking to shine in the 400-meter hurdles. Hurdling technique coach Rich Bowman is expected to help both athletes make the transition to collegiate track.

“He has really done some good things in helping our technique,” said Hoover.

With a strong group of returning athletes and many promising freshmen, the men’s track team is in position to excel in hurdling competitions once again this season.