Clearing the final hurdle

To say Columbus North’s boys hurdlers have been snakebitten the past couple of years would be a massive understatement.

Two years ago, then-senior Chris Sublette had one of the fastest times in the state in the 300-meter hurdles, but he pulled a hamstring and never really recovered. Last year, then-senior Michael Behling was among the state’s best on both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, but a foot injury kept him from making it out of the sectional.

While the Bull Dogs don’t have a hurdler with the blazing speed of Sublette or Behling this season, they do have two who aren’t too far off in senior Bryce Ables and junior Triston Perry.

Both runners have stayed injury-free this season.

Aside from top-seeded long jumper Mitchell Burton, Ables will enter tonight’s Franklin Regional as the highest-seeded North athlete. He is the No. 2 seed in the 300 hurdles.

The top three finishers in each event from each of the eight regionals, plus anyone else meeting the state qualifying standard, advance to the June 4 state finals. If those numbers don’t add up to 27, the next-best times or distances from around the state are added until the field equals 27.

“This year, I just wanted to see what I could do and just kind of kept working,” Ables said. “I’ve kept dropping time, and I’m just looking to keep going.”

Ables has dropped considerable time each of his past couple of meets. He broke 40 seconds for the first time with a 39.98 clocking in a dual meet at Franklin, then went 39.64 to finish second in last week’s North Sectional Center Grove’s Jackson Hohlt, who won the North Sectional, is the top seed at 38.72.

Ables, who played baseball as a freshman, is in his third year of track. He also was a starting safety on the Bull Dogs’ football team in the fall.

“This year, football was good, so I said, ‘This is my last year, let’s see if I can do good at track,’ ” Ables said. “Last year, I was still an alternate at sectional, and I had okay times, but I did so well at football, why not transfer that into track? So I went to all the offseason things, and I kept working at it, and it’s all come together.”

While Ables was making his mark on the defensive side of the football, Perry has been North’s starting quarterback since the middle of his sophomore year. And while Ables’ best event is the 300 hurdles, Perry is best at the 110.

That doesn’t mean they don’t excel at each other’s specialty. Ables is seeded seventh in the regional in the 110, while Perry, who is fourth in the 110, is 15th in the 300.

“It’s been a fun year,” Ables said. “We’re friends, but out here on the track, we’re always messing with each other, trying to make it a good competition. It’s really helped us out, because we keep trying to beat each other out in these races. I really think it helped put us in a position where we are now.”

Perry ran 15.04 in the 110 to finish second in the sectional. His personal-best time of 14.78, though, would put him in the third position and in line to qualify for state.

“I have to get my start down and run a pretty good time — probably a 14.6 or 14.5,” Perry said. “(Hurdles coach Jamie Brinegar) really worked on our starts and our form over the hurdles, and last year watching Michael, that helped a lot, too,” Perry said.

Both Ables and Perry will be making their first regional appearance. Perry was a good bet to make it last year in the 110, but he fell over the third hurdle in the sectional.

Perry, who has grown an inch to 6-foot-3, dropped several pounds after football season and plans to put it back on before his senior football season.

Ables, who is headed to Purdue to study mechanical engineering technology, will chase Behling’s school record of 39.15 in the 300. Ables also runs on the Bull Dogs’ 4×400 relay team that is seeded seventh.

“They’ve been working really hard all season,” Brinegar said. “They started in indoor season just determined. Bryce really focused on a lot of 400 training, which helped his endurance for the 300 hurdles, and Triston has just come out a man on a mission in the high hurdles, really pushing himself, and they push each other.”

That friendly competition, they say, has paid off in success for both hurdlers.

“Every day, I come out here and compete against Bryce,” Perry said. “We kind of get annoyed sometimes, but it makes us both better in the long run.”

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Franklin boys track regional

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Franklin High School

Who: Qualifiers from the Columbus North, Connersville, East Central and Whiteland Sectionals, including runners from Columbus North and Columbus East.

Advancement: Top three in each event and anyone else meeting the state qualifying standard from the state’s eight regionals advance to the June 3 state finals. If that number is less than 27 in an event, the next-best performances are added until the field totals 27.