How hard is it to run the 100 hurdles?
How tough is it to play golf like a champion?
Can you hit a top softball or baseball fastball? Play soccer against one of the area’s best? Try and outshoot a three-point champion?
We all know sports are difficult. But, we’ve also seen how easy some athletes make it.
So, this summer I’m going to remind people how tough sports really are.
I’m taking challenges from area athletes, and coaches, and trying to compete against the athletes, or coaches, or run through a workout.
I will find out first hand just how great the athletes in the area are.
To start out my column, what better athlete can there be to compete against than a Gambrell?
They are the first family of track and field in the area.
All four siblings have been state qualifiers. Two hold state records. They all have league titles. There are district crowns, state medals and national medals that could fill a room.
And, few events could seem scarier than running the hurdles. I mean, running is hard enough, trying to jump over things as you do, that just seems insane.
So, my first challenge was to run the 100 hurdles against Ariana Gambrell.
Ariana is a multiple time state qualifier in the hurdles. She’s the school’s record holder. She’s one of the best in the state, and will be competing next year at Division I Bucknell.
She can run the 100 hurdles in under 15.5 seconds. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get past the first hurdle in that amount of time.
Getting this good at the hurdles isn’t something that happened overnight for Gambrell.
It’s something that happened over time, a long period of time.
“Actually I started in seventh grade and one of my friends was doing hurdles, Sophie Adams was doing hurdles at the time,” Gambrell said. “I asked her, I wanted to try this and she’s actually the one that taught me how to go over them.”
Adams started running longer distances as she got older, and gave up the hurdles, but Gambrell became one of the best in the state in the event.
For me, the hurdles were something that you slowed down before you went over them.
The hurdles were an obstacle I was intimidated by.
While Gambrell soared over them in rhythm. I slowed to a stop most every time before going over them.
There is a time Gambrell remembers being a bit intimidated by the hurdles. Where she remembers not hitting them all in a smooth rhythm, back when she started the event.
“I just remember it being kind of intimidating,” Gambrell said. “At that point, I had just been running the circle, or straightaways, 200s and everything. But, I had never gone over something, it’s kind of scary to run at a fast speed at something.”
When she first started running the event, Gambrell wasn’t able to go through the race at speeds close to what she’s running now.
“I don’t think I was capable of going full speed in seventh grade,” Gambrell said. “It’s kind of a mind game at that point, because you don’t know how to go over them. I was five stepping in seventh grade, going over with the same leg, five steps in between. That’s really slows you down compared to four stepping or three stepping, which is what I do now.”
One thing that helped for Gambrell was starting in junior high, and slowly increasing her speed as she gained confidence in going over the hurdles, she steadily got better and better at things.
“It definitely helped building up my speed and getting more confidence going over the hurdles,” she said. “One of the big things that a lot of people have problems with is keeping their speed going over the hurdles.”
Trying out the hurdles, I can see how hard it is to keep the speed up. Even when you run as slow as I did without the hurdles, you end up even slower with the hurdles in your path.
For Gambrell, in time she found the rhythm of the hurdles, and that’s what has helped her become the runner she is now.
“I honestly can say I didn’t really learn how to do the hurdles until I got to high school,” she said. “That’s where I learned the rhythm of the hurdles. There’s a rhythm to hurdles, you are supposed to have certain steps and a certain beat to going over the hurdles. There’s a rhythm and I learned to do that in high school.”
My form running the hurdles is something that can’t really be fixed. I’ll never be soaring over the hurdles like Gambrell does.
But, one day Gambrell hopes to be able to help some of the younger kids in the event.
She sees those kids that slow down at hurdles. She sees the ones that jump high above the hurdles, and she knows she can help.
“That’s one thing I truly want to do, I want to help the younger generation with hurdles,” she said. “We have hurdles coaches, but I just feel hurdles need more attention and I feel like when I come home from college and stuff I can give them some help.
“It’s something that really sticks out. You see people jumping that way and you think you shouldn’t do it that way, it’s something I want to help kids with.”
Next year Gambrell will be competing at Bucknell University.
In the future maybe she’ll follow in her father’s footsteps and coach younger athletes.
On Tuesday she was in the next lane from me, and I had the best view possible at how fast Gambrell really is, and how running hurdles should look.
If you are an athlete, or coach, and want to issue a challenge for me this summer, e-mail email@example.com