Before he could start his hurdling career in junior high, Urbana’s Kris Hamilton had to overcome a few obstacles.
“Back in junior high when I started track I was no good at high jump or long jump and I was still too scrawny to throw (the discus or shot put),” Hamilton said of how he ended up competing in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles. “Coach sent me to hurdle. I really took to it. By the time I was in the eighth grade it was my favorite race.”
It still is, especially when West Liberty-Salem is competing at the same meet.
Hamilton has forged a friendly rivalry with senior Kam Evans, a sprinter who took up the hurdles in a similar way. The Tigers needed another hurdler to pair with then-eighth-grader Taylor Cordell, so Evans decided to give it a try in the seventh grade.
“I was like heck, why not try it?,” Evans said. “At the beginning I didn’t like it. Ever since I’ve been getting used to it and I’ve been enjoying it more because I don’t like losing. At the beginning I was losing a lot.”
Hamilton and Evans competed against each other in both events at the Graham Invitational on April 17. Hamilton won the 110 in 15.22 seconds, ahead of Evans’ runner-up 15.89. Evans won the 300 in 40.04 and Hamilton finished second in 41.67.
“After he beat me in the 110s I was thinking to myself this can’t happen again,” Evans said, adding a playful grin. “That’s how it is and we both know that.
“In junior high I used to whoop him all the time. Then these last several years — which I told him and his father — he’s improved a lot. I used to beat him in the 110s. He beat me in the 110s and we both ran personal records. I don’t get mad if he beats me. It’s been a friendly rivalry.”
Neither made it to state last season in the hurdles, Urbana competes in Division II and West Liberty-Salem in D-III, but Evans was on the Tigers’ state champion 1,600 relay team. He also ran on the 800 relay team that finished fifth in Columbus.
It’s that sprinter’s speed that gives Evans the edge in the 300 hurdles. Hamilton’s technique is his advantage in the 110s.
“Speed is still important in both, but how you hurdle is more important in the 110 and that’s more my strength,” Hamilton said. “I have a high level of respect for him. We might be rivals on the track but I always like to run against him. I get my best times against him.”
Hamilton placed sixth in the 110 hurdles at regionals last season, missing a state qualifying spot by two places. He’s already running near his regional time this season and is also in pursuit of the school record. Hamilton’s personal best in the 110s is 15.19, just shy of the school record of 14.9. His personal best in the 300 is 40.66.
“I can’t let it bother me, but it does motivate me to know I got that close (to state),” he said. “It shows me I can get there and I can always do better.”
Especially if Evans is in the next lane.