BOURBON — Being a hurdler is about precision. The length and number of strides between the hurdles, where a runner’s feet leave and where they hit the ground — the outcome of a race is all in the details.
And Triton senior hurdler Abigail Powell minds the details.
“Hurdles, it’s definitely an art, and it has to be perfect. If it’s not perfect, you will hit them, you will fall,” she explained. “That will happen, especially in the 100s because it’s a shorter distance, and they’re closer together. You have to really snap down the same every time so that your lead leg lands the same every time, so that your steps are the same every time. Otherwise you’ll start to get too close to the hurdle or too far away, and you’ll stutter-step and you’ll be slow or you’ll hit them.”
If hurdling takes an attention to detail, it’s not terribly surprising that Powell is so good at it. A two-time regional qualifier in both the 100s and the 300s as well as the defending Hoosier North Athletic Conference champ in both, Powell is naturally minutia-minded. She sets up her blocks the same each and every race, warms up the same, takes two jumps, claps her hands and sets her feet the same way. And then she’s off and running, usually towards a top finish.
“I am a pretty detail-oriented person, so hurdles and I, I guess you could say we kind of get along,” she said.
“Even in my school life I am detailed, so when it comes to doing the hurdles, I know what foot I start with every time. I start with the same one every time; I set my blocks up the same every time. And that’s key when it comes to hurdles — consistency.”
Powell enters her final season with Triton track as her team’s top points-producer. As one of only two seniors on a roster of just 12 athletes, the Lady Trojans will be relying heavily on her, and she’ll be counted on to compete in the maximum four events every meet. Three of those will remain constant — the 100 and 300 hurdles and as a leg on the team’s 4×100 relay — but the fourth event will likely change from meet to meet to give Triton track and field its best chance to compete against bigger, deeper squads.
“She’s good at anything she does, but her two main races are just the hurdles and then she’ll be in the 4×1. And then I’m going to let her kind of pick, but depending on who we’re going against and where we need points, she’ll do something else,” explained first-year Triton girls head coach Jeremy May.
“This year they changed the rule to where you can enter an athlete in more than four events, but they can only run four events. So as a coach, I’ve got to sit at the kitchen table and figure out what’s the best way and actually go to the meet and be like ‘I may enter her in seven events, but she can only do four. Where am I going to get our points?’ So this year is going to be a lot more time-consuming for all of the coaches, and it’s going to be a little bit of gamesmanship during events. It’s going to be interesting.”
Given the new IHSAA rules, athletes may need to prepare themselves for an event on short notice. For her part, however, Powell says she’s excited and willing to do whatever she can for her team — everything, that is, except the 3200, she said with a laugh.
“I am excited to run the two hurdles races, of course, and the 4×1. Love those races, especially the 4×1 being more of a team effort — I really like that. But the fourth event being inconsistent and we don’t know I’m actually really excited about that,” she said. “I think it’ll give me a chance to have an adventure and try new things. I threw discus last year; I loved it. I’m sure I’ll be thrown in the high jump a few times. The 100, the 200, maybe long jump, I don’t know. I told Coach May I’d do anything but the two-mile. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to have an open fourth one. It’ll be a new adventure every meet.”
As one of two seniors on this year’s team alongside May’s daughter Alysha, Powell has also taken some of the younger Lady Trojans under her wing. She’s showing sophomore Anela Hill — a hurdler/ high jumper — and freshman Shayleigh Honeycutt — who shows promise in the the long jump as well as the 300 hurdles — the ropes. And she’s excited about their progress.
“I’m super excited about Shayleigh and Annie. They’ll both be really good hurdlers, especially after I graduate,” said Powell. “I’m really happy to leave the hurdle races to them. I’m working on trying to get a solid four-step with both of them. It’s kind of difficult because they are new to it, too. But I’m really excited for them, and I think they’re going to do great.”
Joining Powell, Alysha, Hill and Honeycutt are sophomore 400-meter specialist Jaela Faulkner, fellow sophomore Abby Viers — who finished one place out of a regional berth in the shot put last spring — as well as freshman vaulter and 800-meter runner Makenna May and freshman thrower Hailey Parker. In total, the squad is comprised of just two seniors and four sophomores. The rest of this year’s lineup are all freshmen.
It’s a young squad and a small one, but what the team lacks in quantity, the Lady Trojans make up for in quality. May believes his athletes can compete for a top-half finish in the HNAC and that several have a chance to get out to regional in their specialties come sectional time.
“The toughest thing is going to be that we’re going to have to eat three events. We just don’t have the athletes to do some of the events. But the ones that we’re going to field, we’re going to be pretty competitive in,” said May.
“We’ve got quite a few girls that have a good shot. It’s going to be tough, just numbers-wise. I’m a realist about it. We’re not going to win sectional, but my goal when we get to regional is that we can get as many girls out as we can and focus on what they’re best at.”
Triton track will open its schedule next Tuesday, April 9, with a home dual against Culver Academies.