ORR’s Meg Hughes to race in nationals
MATTAPOISETT — While most of the team is finished for the spring season, a handful of athletes remain hard at work on Old Rochester Regional High School’s outdoor track. Junior Meg Hughes is training for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor track and field championships in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 13 to 16.
Hughes will represent ORR in the 400 meter hurdles. She has been running track since the seventh grade, but only started competing in hurdles this year. She started out as a long distance runner in the 1 mile, 2 mile, and 800 meter events, but found unexpected success in the shorter races.
Teammates Adam Sylvia, Anthony Childs, and Lea Bourgeois will join Hughes to run in a new event, the mixed 400 meter relay. Teams consisting of two boys and two girls each will compete for the fastest combined time. Coach Tilden said the ORR team ran the event once before with a time of 4:31.63 to qualify for nationals. Unlike traditional relay races where runners pass off a baton, this event timed runners separately and added their times together for a final result.
Tilden said her only goal for the new event is to improve the team’s time from the qualifying race.
Hughes started seriously training on hurdles after she finished with a time of 65.8 seconds in her first attempt at the event in a meet at Apponequet Regional High School earlier this season.
“I took it by chance and I ended up being kinda good at it,” she said of her initial performance.
Hughes was able to improve her time to just 61.7 seconds in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association All State Championships.
Coach Cindy Tilden said she figured Hughes would be a good fit for the 400 meter hurdles due to her versatility as an athlete.
“She is a rare distance runner that also has speed. That enables her to come down to the sprinting events,” Tilden said.
Hughes is a multi-sport athlete and has already committed to playing soccer at Providence College after graduating. She said competing in track and field has given her an edge over her competition by having increased speed and endurance.
With a strong base in distance running, most of Hughes’ practice time is being spent on developing speed, flexibility, and proper form. A typical practice involves warm up laps, stretching, “walk over” hurdle drills, block starts and full sprints. She trains for an average of an hour a day for six days a week.
Tilden said the practices leading up to nationals are similar to those in the regular season, the trick is getting her athlete to peak at the right time. Hughes decided not to go to an optional New England championship meet to better accommodate her schedule and fit in more intense training sessions in the days leading up to nationals. Tilden said Hughes will likely make an attempt to be New England champion next year, as a senior.
Hughes said the learning curve for the hurdles was much harder than other races, but she made steady improvements to her form throughout the season.