Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – TJ Craig gets approached by a few athletes each season wanting to try a new event.
Sprints are popular requests for the West High coach or maybe an offer to join a relay.
Athletes aren’t exactly lining up to run the 400 hurdles or the 800 so when junior Austin West asked to try the 400 hurdles this season Craig’s ears perked up.
“When someone asks if they can run the 400 lows or the 800 you pretty much say let’s give it a shot,” Craig said. “It takes a special kind of person to run those events.”
Giving the 400 hurdles a shot proved to be a wise decision for West.
West finished runner-up in the 400 hurdles in a career-best time of 53.09 on Friday at the Class 4A state meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
Cedar Falls senior Nathan Hoy edged West over the final 10 meters to win his second straight state title in the event in a time of 52.57.
The runner-up finish from West was four spots better than his seeding and helped West High enter the final day of the state competition in sixth place in the 4A team standings with 22 points.
“I was trying to win it but I’ll take second,” West said. “Hoy is a stud, I’ll give him that but eight points is good for us it’s five more than I was supposed to score.”
West was primarily a sprinter before he came to Craig at the beginning of the season with the idea to try to the 400 hurdles.
A member of the Trojans’ state qualifying 4×100 and 4×400 West possessed sprinters’ speed and his athleticism made the hurdles a good fit Craig thought.
He didn’t know how right he would turn out to be.
“He asked if he could give the 400 lows a try and I said lets give it a try you are a good athlete lets see how you can do and it’s worked out in our favor,” Craig said. “Obviously, the sprinters speed the athletic ability are important but I think the wanting to do it is the most important.”
West didn’t need long to show his potential in the hurdles.
He finished third at the Drake Relays in the event last month and entered the state meet with the seventh-best time in 4A this season at 54.5.
West lowered that time by more than a second on Friday, clocking the second fastest time in West High history.
“Our school record is 52.9 so that has been in the back of my head for quite some time but anything in the 53s I was going to be happy with,” West said. “It went well but I could have hit the ninth hurdle better. I didn’t hit it well and if I would have hit that better I would have had a shot at it.”
West held a slight lead approaching the ninth hurdle but caught just enough of that hurdle to cause a slight misstep.
It was all Hoy needed to win his second straight 4A title.
“With (public address announcer) Mike Jay over the intercom he was talking about him and I snuck a peak onto the home stretch and I knew he hadn’t flat out passed me yet,” West said of Hoy. “I had a guy that went out hard in eight and I just hung on with him and I knew I had a shot. I felt him coming and I hit hurdle nine bad and if I didn’t I would have had a shot.”
The 53.09 for West on Friday was the second fastest time in 4A this season behind only Hoy’s winning time.
“That was unbelievable,” Craig said. “That was just him going out and wanting to win it, he had that attitude the whole time and he went for it and came up a little short but I don’t think he lost the race I think the other guy won it.”