CAMANCHE — Camanche boys track coach Lisa Kunzie wasn’t even going to have Blake Hardison run the 110-meter hurdles at districts last Thursday.
The junior wasn’t having any of that.
“Coach wasn’t going to put me in the event and I told her I thought I could make something happen out of it,” Hardison said.
It wasn’t because Kunzie didn’t believe in him. In fact, the opposite. It’s because they’ve been using Hardison’s athletic ability elsewhere.
“It’s so funny,” Kunize said. “He’s been running 400s really well and consistently well and I really wanted him to break through and get a faster time in the four. His hurdles, we hadn’t really focused on them because he’s been so strong in relays for us. Having the 100 speed versus the 400 speed, we had been focusing on the 400s.
“He’s a junior and I said I’ll put you in it, I know you can hurdle. He’s athletically talented, he just needs the mindset some day.”
His talk was a little bit bigger than his numbers. He had been running the 110-meter hurdles around 17 seconds all year. Going into districts, it was a now or never attitude.
“I really didn’t think I would make it because my times coming into the state qualifying meet were really slow,” Hardison said.
“I went in with the slowest time in the fastest heat. I put in a 15.78 that got me third and allowed me to move on to the state meet.”
Hardison finished third at districts, but barely. He put in his fastest time of the season by nearly two seconds.
Two seconds in a race as short at the 110-meter hurdles is huge.
“I look at home and go ‘Where did that come from?!’ — He’s said I don’t know,” Kunzie said. “It was really exciting to see him at districts get third, and barely.”
It wasn’t his only good race that night in Tipton either.
“He had a heck of a night at districts,” Kunzie said. “He ran a 52 split in the Distance Medley where he had been running 54 consistently. His best time he had put in the hurdles this season had been a 17.8 and he runs two seconds faster. He finally let go of everything that was holding him back and went for it at districts.”
He also got a season best in the 400-hurdles. He ran a 57.99, which was good for fourth at the meet. He barely missed the cut for that event.
Still, he will be running at Drake Stadium on Friday in the 110-meter hurdles. He says it’s a lot of hard work culminating.
“Last year, I had a really good hurdle coach and he helped me put in the work for it. I got third place last year and I knew I had the potential for it,” Hardison said. “It just wasn’t showing it in the numbers and times this year.”
He’s ranked as 23rd out of 24 qualifiers in his event. But remember—In a race this short everyone is close. Less than a second separates the top qualifiers from the last qualifier.
Plus, it’s extra motivation. That seems to bode well for him.
“I’m going in as one of the slowest times and that just gives me more of an incentive to work hard,” Hardison said. “I’m looking to get into the top spots in my heat and move on to finals, and see what I can do from there.”
Hardison runs the preliminary race Friday afternoon. He also runs the 400-leg of the Camanche’s Distance Medley, which runs Friday evening a few hours later.