Strasburg’s Waters a natural at hurdling

Strasburg junior track standout Elijah Waters has high hopes of competing in the hurdles this year. Waters placed fourth in the state in the 110 hurdles last year and aims to improve on that this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Elijah Waters didn’t expect to like hurdling when he first tried out for track several years ago. It didn’t take long for the Strasburg junior to realize this was something he could excel at.

Even during his freshman year Waters showed that he was a natural at hurdling.

“We had him three-stepping very young,” Strasburg head track coach Emily Brandon said. “It’s rare to find an athlete that when they come out they can three-step those hurdles so young, and he just has a natural stride to it. When we saw that, coach (Glenn) Proctor wasn’t coaching at the time, but we stood up on the hill and him and I we both watched Elijah run and realized that we had something special in him.”

Waters said that he’s usually smaller than the other hurdlers, and it’s a little surprising, even to him, at how good he’s been at it.

“I’m usually the shortest one. I just don’t look like a hurdler,” Waters said. “… When I could three-step as a freshman – that’s when everyone was like hey you might be good at this. Not everyone can be a hurdler. It’s nice to be good at something that not everyone’s good at.”

Strasburg's Elijah Water said his ultimate goal is to win a state title. Rich Cooley/Daily

Last year, Waters won the first meet of the season, the Central Invitational, with a 16.1 in the 110 hurdles. His time in that meet opened a lot of eyes. He followed that up with another 16.1 in the next meet.

“I was pretty excited. I didn’t actually think I was going to win,” Waters said of his start last year. “When I first saw my time I was pretty happy about it. It definitely gave me motivation for the rest of the season.”

Waters took that motivation and ran with it for the rest of the season. He finished fourth in the Group 2A state track meet in the 110 hurdles in a time of 15.64, which was a personal record.

The place and time were even more impressive considering he almost didn’t qualify for the finals.

“I ran the trials and I didn’t think I made it into the finals because I ran a horrible time and hit like three hurdles,” Waters said. “But I actually came to trials ranked dead. … Then when we ran I actually didn’t have that great of technique in the finals, but I ran so fast between that I made up for it.”

He also qualified for the state meet in the 300 hurdles, but didn’t make all-state.

Waters said that last year part of his problem was his conditioning. He said that worked with former head track coach Jeff Rudolph more on the technique side than the conditioning.

“Last year my conditioning was awful,” Waters said. “I was not conditioned well at all – just different coaching styles. We focused more on technique instead of conditioning, I guess. End of the races I just couldn’t finish as well as other guys. I guess I was just kind of a natural at it so that kind of helped a little bit.”

This year Waters is working with Proctor, the long-time football and track coach, who is back to work with hurdlers this season.

Waters said they have worked a lot on conditioning, and he didn’t even touch a hurdle the first week of practice. Waters said he’s excited to work with Proctor.

“He’s a really good coach. Coach Proctor – he’s a legend,” Waters said. “I’ll do a lot more conditioning. So I’m expecting my times to be a lot better. I should do a lot better in the 300’s this year. He’s definitely ironing out my technique in the 100’s.”

Waters said he dedicated himself to getting stronger and faster in the offseason. He lifted weights and put on 32 pounds.

Brandon said that she’s been impressed with Waters’ work ethic in the offseason.

“He’s really put in the time. I think once he had that success last year he realized he’s got something special,” Brandon said. “We were on the track in November. He’s been on the track every day. He’s really dedicated, and he’s got great potential to do some great things this season.”

Waters said that he is hoping to do some other events this season as well. He said he’s hoping to be part of the 4×100 relay and also the long jump.

“I’m really excited about it, because people know I’m a pretty decent hurdler but they don’t know how fast I am,” Waters said. “So I’m happy to show that and my team will get points.”

Waters said that the best about part track is being part of the team. The Rams lost some top athletes to graduation last year, but Waters said he’s confident in the team they have this season.

For himself, Waters said that the ultimate goal is to win the state title.

“I think as long as I listen to coach Proctor and do what he tells me I’ll have a chance – I’ll have a shot at it,” Waters said. “If not as long as I do what I’ve come out to do I’ll at least place well.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com