Boys Track & Field

Hurdling toward lofty goals

April 24, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Jake McFadden has become familiar with the number 1 over the last four years as one of Michigan’s elite high school hurdlers.

But he’s got his sight set on three more numbers in this, his final Clare season – 37, 21 and 13.

Running the 300-meter hurdles in 37 seconds has been a goal for a few years, and would further lower his school record in that race. Finishing the 200 in 21.9 would set another school record – and he’s come within nine hundredths of a second of doing so.

Breaking 14 seconds in the 110 hurdles would be another level of significant. McFadden is expected to win the races he runs this season, especially against many of the schools and competitors he already has defeated during his career. But hitting 13 seconds and change in the 110 would put him in elite company, regardless of which division he runs in and whoever he might be facing.

“It’s one of those benchmarks. If you break 14, you’re in a special kind of club,” McFadden said. “That would be more important than winning, personally. No one could take that away. … It would show we can run fast in Division 3 too. You don’t have to be from a big school.”

McFadden gets one of Second Half’s High 5s this week after another dominating performance. He won the 110-meter hurdles (14.9 seconds), the 300 hurdles (39.3) and the 200 dash (22.3) on Saturday at the Remus Chippewa Hills Invitational as Clare scored 174 points to finish first as a team.

He's also the reigning MHSAA Division 3 champion in both hurdles races and helped Clare to a third-place team finish at the 2011 Final.

McFadden has big things ahead. He’s signed to run next season for Michigan State University, and will study biomedical engineering.

But the best part of his story might be the beginning.

By his description, McFadden was “a little bit chubby” in junior high. He shot put and ran on the 800 relay, and as a freshman nearly played baseball instead.

But following the lead of older brother Mike, a 2010 Clare grad and sprinter who had switched to track from baseball, Jake gave track another try.

The Pioneers had a tradition of exceptional hurdlers before McFadden. And before high school, he’d never tried those events. But coach Adam Burhans told his now-slimmer freshman that he’d be the team’s next intermediate hurdler – and the decision proved one of genius.

“He had me try out the high hurdles, and I succeeded,” McFadden said. “I was a little nervous, and he kinda put pressure on me to follow that tradition.”

McFadden qualified for the Division 3 Finals in the 300 race as a freshman, then finished third at the 2010 Final in the 110 hurdles. He won the 110 at last season’s Final in 14.36 seconds and the 300 in 39.15.

This winter he ran on the indoor circuit, and finished second in the 60-meter hurdles at its championship meet just six hundredths of a second behind Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Drake Johnson – the two-time defending 110 champion in Division 1.

It's been an incredible run, literally, regardless of whether or not McFadden hits this season's sought-after times. At Clare High, he’s already certain to be remembered as arguably the best in a long line of record-setting standouts.

“People can look up there and see that I was the best,” McFadden said of his school records. “And they can shoot for that goal also, and break that.”

Click to read more about McFadden and this week's other High 5s.

PHOTO: Clare's Jake McFadden won both hurdles races at last season's MHSAA Division 3 Final.