When Jared Madden first started track practice last winter, he was hesitant to compete in the hurdle events.
The Hinckley-Big Rock senior was a hurdler in middle school, qualifying for the IESA state meet as a sixth- and seventh-grader. But track and field wasn’t a priority for Madden when he got to high school. Instead, he starred for the Royals’ soccer and basketball teams and helped lead the soccer team to a third-place finish in 2012.
As a senior, Madden decided to revive his track career, but he didn’t carry big expectations for himself.
“It was my last year of high school and I didn’t want it to be over yet with sports and with basketball ending the way it did,” Madden said. “My friends from basketball, some of them do track and I like being part of the team.”
So H-BR coach Greg Burks put Madden in a variety of events early in the season as Madden competed in the long jump, 200- and 400-meters, among others. He was a part of H-BR’s relays, but never thought about the hurdles until midway through the season.
After seeing freshman Zach McNanna win a couple hurdles events in meets and getting a little push from Burks, Madden decided to give the 300 hurdles another try.
“Once we got a meet or two under our belt, it was evident that maybe he could challenge that [state qualifying time of 42 seconds],” Burks said. “When you first put somebody in an event, you don’t know what to expect.”
Burks saw Madden as a natural for the 300 hurdles. He said Madden was able to attack the hurdles with speed and maintain it through each hurdle, but it was a matter of developing consistency.
In Friday’s sectional meet, it all came together as Madden ran a season-best 41.0, breaking a 20-year school record and winning the sectional title to qualify for the Class 1A state meet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
“At sectionals, I wasn’t even focused on state, I was just focused on getting my best time,” Madden said. “I got my steps right and I got the first three hurdles down and felt good from there. Maybe it was the adrenaline.”
Madden heads into the state meet as the No. 12 seed in the 300 hurdles. The top nine in today’s prelims will make Saturday’s finals. Not bad for less than two months of practice and a three-year absence.
“I have no doubt in my mind with the way his body is made up he probably would’ve been a pretty solid 800 runner,” Burks said. “We went with the 300 route and it proved to be the right thing to do.”
Madden will be joined by fellow senior Billy Weissinger, who makes his third consecutive appearance in the state meet. He was ninth as a junior and third as a sophomore.
“If things can hold up this week, with a little luck, he can be back to where he was the past two years,” Burks said. “We take nothing for granted.”