Barlow's Micah Perry chases elusive sub-14 second hurdles
In a lot of ways Micah Perry stumbled into the hurdles on a whim.
He was a talented sprinter in middle school, running for West Orient Middle School, when his coach recommended he try out the new discipline. Perry has never been daunted by new challenges, so the eighth grader agreed to give it a whirl.
He began with the 300-meter hurdles, a longer race that spreads out the barriers along the track. He survived that race, relying on more of a jumping technique than a true hurdle, so his coach directed him to run the 110-meter hurdles during what was essentially the middle school state championships.
"Up until then I had been jumping over the hurdles, and wasn't quite sure about my technique," Perry said. "As I was warming up, trying to figure it out, I saw some other clearing the hurdles. Watching them, something just clicked."
Now Perry is one of the top hurdlers in the state. The Barlow junior is the defending state champion, and is chasing what has proven to be an elusive mark — a sub-14 second finish in the 110 hurdles.
"To achieve that it is going to take a fast start, clearing all the hurdles and finishing through the line," Perry said.
The closest he came was under the bright lights of last summer's Outdoor Nationals, which drew the best high school-aged athletes from around the country. Perry crossed the line in 14.30 during the prelims at the meet held at Hayward Field in Eugene, the host site for this season's State Championships that is also regarded as the crown jewel of track venues in the United States.
"Everything was so huge (at Hayward), and there were so many people in the stands," Perry said. "But then you look down and it is the same track that we have here at Barlow."
"The moment you step into the blocks you feel this surge of energy, and everything else fades away," he added.
There is an easy confidence to Perry, so when he says he will achieve something it isn't hard to believe. And the speedster is already turning heads in 2022.
At the Sherwood "Need for Speed" Classic he set a new top mark in the 100 meters (11.13) and a season-best in the 110 hurdles (14.41). He recorded a PR of 22.98 in the 200 meters during a duel meet with Central Catholic and Reynolds, and another PR in the high jump with a mark of 5-8 feet at the Sam Barlow Icebreaker to kick off the season. He also had a season-best 20-10 inch long jump at the Laker Classic Invitational.
Though this is really only his second year of high school track, after the pandemic wiped away his freshman debut, there are no nerves as he competes. Instead Perry sports an easy smile, and is quick to step away from warmups to cheer on a teammate.
"Being a part of this program is fun because we know when to mess around, and when to push each other to be the best versions of ourselves," he said. "We are all just one big track family."
His diverse mix of events has been partly spurred by a minor hip injury that has kept him wary from overdoing it in the hurdles during these mid-season competitions. But Perry also wants a much busier dance card during this year's State Meet. He wants to qualify in the 110 hurdles, the 100 and 200 meters, the 4x100 relay and the long jump.
"I want to try everything," he said.
But the focus remains on the hurdles.
Perry is the first to admit his form isn't always perfect, or precise. Instead he takes on the hurdles as quickly as possible, launching himself over the obstacles and driving back down to the track.
"My goal is to always get over them as fast as I can," he said.
For many the threat of falling, and brutal injury, scares them away from trying the hurdles. But Perry thrives under that kind of pressure. His worst falls have all come during practice, when he is really pushing or trying something new with his form. But it doesn't faze him.
"I enjoy falling," he said with a smile. "If you hit a hurdle that just means you are giving it your all."
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