When it’s going right — when speed and proficiency produce electricity — the elite hurdlers feel like the proverbial heifer that jumps over the moon.
Rogers High School’s Eric Simpson is on the cusp. He can feel it. His technique in the 110-meter high hurdles has vastly improved, even over the course of this spring.
His best time this season is 14.11 seconds — two-tenths of a second faster than any high school hurdler in Washington. He is undefeated in the race, including wins at the prestigious Arcadia (California) Invitational and Oregon Relays.
But he wants more.
He wants the best time in Washington history. The record is 13.84, set by Steilacoom High School’s Daniel Zmuda in July at the Track City Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
“I want to get the all-time record,” said Simpson, the reigning Class 4A 110 hurdles champion. “I have been running around the same time all spring. It has been a little discouraging.”
Simpson and others will participate in the penultimate weekend of the spring sports postseason. The Class 4A West Central District track and field meet will be held Friday and Saturday at French Field in Kent.
These next two weeks are paramount for the Rams senior. A nagging hamstring injury has limited his burst. But he’s healthy. And he is motivated to post something very fast.
“We are getting to that point,” Rogers boys track coach Danny Carlson said. “There’s been nobody really close to him so he has had to run by himself. We talk about what to do and what to work on. He knows.”
Simpson is a very thoughtful and resourceful athlete. Pinned up in his bedroom for years has been Nate Robinson’s old state record of 13.85, set for Rainier Beach High School in 2002. Robinson now plays in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets.
The closest Simpson has come to that time was a 14.03 last season at the district championships.
“I’ve talked to other people about it, and they’ve said the most important thing is to go out there and run your race, and it will come to you,” Simpson said.
And if it doesn’t?
“It doesn’t,” Simpson said. “That’s how it is. It wasn’t in the cards.”
All Simpson can do is to continue to perfect his craft technically. He says he gets off to better starts than he used to, and is much quicker going over each hurdle.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better at sequences of the race,” Simpson said. “It is just a matter of pulling all of this together for one race.”
If he needs a shining example, he can look at the teenager he is chasing — Zmuda, who now competes for Washington State University.
Zmuda was hobbled by a leg injury much of last spring, never broke 14 seconds and ended up losing the 2A title to White River’s Devin Liebel (13.98).
When Zmuda got healthy in the summer, he was able to achieve a bit of state history.
“The way I have approached the latter half of the season, I am going out and striving for my goal,” Simpson said.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com