Male Athlete of the Week: Strasburg’s Waters starting to hit peak

Elijah Waters

STRASBURG – Elijah Waters relishes each chance he gets to compete on the track against the most challenging competition. The Strasburg High School junior hurdler enjoys the extra drive it instills in him with each race.

But, as Waters said Wednesday before practice, racing against fellow hurdlers who are just as fast, if not faster, than himself can also be “scary” because only two things can happen – either you rise to the challenge of the competition, or you fail to keep pace.

In the Region 2A East track and field championships on May 25 at East Rockingham High School, Waters rose to the challenge, sweeping the boys’ 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter hurdles while breaking school records in both events along the way.

It was a prime performance for Waters, who claimed his first regional championships with his victories. But don’t expect it to ease his mind as he preps for the Group 2A state track and field meet on Friday and Saturday at Radford University.

“Winning it, I thought that it would ease some pressure,” said Waters, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for May 23-29, “but now it just puts more on me because it’s like well, you’ve beat them before, but can you do it again?”

Waters will find out that answer this weekend, but last week proved the junior is quite capable of leaving Radford with at least one state championship medal in hand. Following his performance at the regional event, Waters enters the state meet with the fastest fully automatic time (FAT) recorded in the Group 2A 110 hurdles this spring.

His regional championship time of 15.07 seconds in that event last week beat the previous Strasburg record of 15.12 set by Brian Strejcek in 2005. Waters just edged out Maggie Walker’s Robert Hicks (15.11) at the finish line in the 110 hurdle finals, but the Strasburg junior said it was his jolt off the starting line and quick times over the first hurdle in both the 110 and 300 hurdles that were key to his two victories.

“I knew I had to keep that momentum if I wanted to win because the guys next to me were all running low 15s,” Waters said of his quick starts off the blocks.

Later in the afternoon, Waters held that momentum through the 300-meter hurdles by winning the race with a time of 40.79 seconds. That mark broke the previous school record of 40.94 set by Darren Alsberry nearly 30 years ago.

“It makes me feel really good because that’s an old record. That record’s older than our head coach,” Waters said, referring to first-year Rams coach Emily Brandon. “So, I don’t know, knowing that I broke it makes me feel really good because if (Alsberry) held that record for almost 30 years he was obviously a tremendous athlete.”

Shortly after his record-setting performance last week, Waters was quick to credit his success to the guidance of longtime Rams coach Glenn Proctor, whom Waters said helped him navigate a hamstring injury earlier this season and prepare Waters to reach his peak in time for the postseason meets.

“Throughout the season he was pushing me when he could and resting me when I needed to be rested,” Waters said of Proctor. “He’s really smart about how much recovery people have, so that definitely helped this season.”

Waters will have to be at his best one more time this weekend, as he said he expects – and is hoping for – more great competition in the 110 high hurdles from a field that will include Hicks and Appomattox County’s Delonta Kelso, who owns the fastest mark in Region 2A West (15.26 seconds) this season. Waters’ time in the 300 hurdles last week is over a full second slower than the 39.71 set by Chatham’s Kwalee Witcher in the Region 2A West meet.

“For me it’s a new slate because I can’t go in there going, ‘Oh yeah, I beat these guys, it’ll be easy,'” Waters said. “I’m confident that I have the ability to do it but when you get to the state meet all those guys are really good. We’re all within tenths of a second of each other (in the 110 high hurdles), so if I make one slipup that’s the race. I cannot make it past trials because of one small mistake. So if anything I’m a little more worried now. The only thing that kind of eases the pressure is I already broke the records. I already did that, so I already did something I really wanted to accomplish this season. But there’s still a lot of pressure for states. But I’m excited. I’m hoping to run a good race and I hope they run a good race, push me even more and maybe break the record again.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com