Hiland senior Brayden Gray got a taste of the state track and field meet last year as a junior. This year, in his final season, he had just one goal: turn in a performance that was worthy of standing on the podium in front of the masses at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus and bask in the glow of their adoration for the top performers in Div. III in the 300-meter hurdles.
Gray qualified for the finals, inching in at seventh place with a run of 40.16, but he saved his best effort of his career for the finals, where he burned his way to a 39.87, placing him fifth overall and securing his much-sought-after spot on the podium in an event won by Africentric’s Anthony Tyler in 38.73.
“I ran a 40.10 yesterday, so it felt great to finally run a 39,” Gray said of his finals effort. “I wanted to get somewhere on the podium, and thankfully I got there this year.”
Gray said the preliminaries were pretty intense. As a state-qualifier last season, he got a taste of that intensity. However, he said the prelims were nothing compared to the heat of lining up to run in the state finals.
“Today was even more intense,” Gray said. “Everyone was running their best races of the year, and being pushed by them made me run even better.”
Gray said he was able to push aside the enormous and very vocal crowd to focus on what really mattered the most: making his steps and clearing each hurdle smoothly.
He went on to say he has truly enjoyed is track experience at Hiland, and with head coach Mark Fowler retiring after this year, he wanted to do something special.
“He always wanted me to be the best I could possibly be, and being on the podium means I was the best I could be,” Gray said. “I am very grateful I could represent him in that way.”
Gray started hurdling his freshman year at Hiland, and with his speed he quickly became a project for Fowler. He began taking lessons from then-West Holmes head coach Rich Patterson, a hurdler himself in his day, and his technique began to match his speed.
“I actually just wanted to run sprints my freshman year, but they put me in the hurdles, even though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but thankfully I stuck with it,” Gray said. “I kept growing and getting better each year. I think with the coaching I received, I was able to perfect one of the hardest races in track, and that alone is exciting. Then to come down here and run with the best in the state was exciting, and getting to know them better and realize I was here with the best was fun.”
Gray will go to Kent State but is unsure if he will run track.
#OHSAA #D3TrackStateFinal@HilandAthletics ‘s Brayden Gray reaches the podium, earning All-Ohio honors in the 300-meter hurdles. He posted a 39.87 in the final, placing 5th overall. Congrats!#HilandHawks pic.twitter.com/ROLhDgTvVb
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) June 1, 2019