PDT Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — They say not to knock it until you try it but Valley might be knocking themselves for not having sophomore hurdler Matt Hodge try the 300-Meter Hurdles earlier.
Hodge started competing in the event midway through the track season and despite his inexperience, came in third in Saturday’s Division III State 300-Meter Hurdles final with a time of 39.34 seconds at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“I got my form down and didn’t hit any hurdles and had a really good race,” Hodge said.
Hodge qualified for the final Friday evening but was disappointed with his performance.
“I don’t feel very good about my time. My start was good but I stumbled coming over the second hurdle. It wasn’t really a bad time for what I expected but I wanted to do better,” he said Friday.
Turns out he was right. Hodge shaved nearly a second off his time in Saturday’s race and set a personal best on the way. Not bad for an underclassman who started competing in the event partway through the spring.
“Actually I started this event in the middle of the year,” Hodge said. “I kept breaking the school record in the 110’s and my coaches wanted to see if I could break the record in the 300 and I did it on my first try.”
From there, Hodge kept working at it and perhaps even surprised himself. Told after the race that he finished third, he said, “Really?”
Hodge said the extra work his coaches put in with him was the difference.
“Ever since I started running this they have had me working with a specialist to get better and that’s why I’m here today,” Hodge said.
Still, the state final was immensely difficult.
“I felt tired. For the first time my legs hurt in the back and this was probably the most challenging race I have ever done,” Hodge said.
Soreness aside, the southbound drive back down U.S. 23 was likely a fun one.
“I hope I represented the community of Valley really well,” Hodge said. “I think third isn’t too bad for a sophomore. I hope I made everyone proud.”
Hodge finished behind state champion Jack Lint of Gahanna Columbus, who had a time of 38.91, and Kyle Smithey of Bloomdale Elmwood, who had a time of 39.04.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.