Upland Hurdler Foursome Eyes California Gold

Upland's quartet of young hurdlers, from left: Davis Davis-Lyric, Kai Graves-Blanks, Delaney Crawford, DeQuan January (Courtesy of Upland T&F)

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Kai Graves-Blanks, Davis Davis-Lyric, DeQuan January, and Delaney Crawford have a modest goal: They intend to be record-setters.

This foursome of underclassmen at Upland High (SS) has Golden State standards in the shuttle hurdle relay directly in their crosshairs.

The California record in the boys' 110-meter shuttle hurdle relay race with fully automatic timing is 59.17 seconds set by Long Beach Millikan (SS) in 1983. There's a hand-timed mark of 58.6 set by Hawthorne in 1984, and a 4x120-yard hurdles mark of 58.4 run by Fresno in 1971. 

Pick your goal. There's plenty of targets in this rarely-offered event that the aforementioned Upland quartet plans to pursue on Friday night at the Arcadia Invitational.

The Invitational 4x110m Suttle Hurdles race is tentatively scheduled for 6:51 p.m. during the "Burning Batons" session, the first of two days of the historic high school track and field meet. 

"It's very rare you get four hurdlers of this caliber to be on the same high school team," said Coach Day, the Upland hurdles coach. "With CIF (State Meet) getting canceled and them getting pretty bothered by that, depressed by that, we wanted to focus on something else. That's the shuttle hurdle relay record."

- Crawford, a junior who currently ranks No. 1 in CA in the 110s (14.08) and No. 1 in the U.S. in the 300-meter hurdles (36.64), is set to anchor.

- Graves-Blanks, a sophomore who ranks second in CA at 14.17, is scheduled to lead off.

- Davis-Lyric, (pictured above) a sophomore who ranks No. 12 in the state at 14.78, is scheduled to run second.

- January, a junior who is tied for 13th in CA at 14.81 (3.0), is scheduled to run the third leg.

Three of those marks were achieved in a dual with Riverside North without a wind reading. And January's mark in a dual with Damien/St. Lucy's was aided by a 3.0 meters-per-second wind (1.0 over the allowable for record purposes). 

Last Saturday, in a dual at Trabuco Hills on a pristine day where the wind reading was 0.4, Graves-Blanks went 14.37, Davis-Lyric went 15.06 and January went 15.34.

It's easy to be skeptical, thinking this pair of sophomores and pair of juniors might actually have a shot at records that have stood for decades. This is a challenge they welcome. This is a challenge they have been eyeing for some time. This is a goal that, if executed within their means, is quite achievable. 

"When we were able to get back to work (following the COVID-19 shutdown)," Coach Day said, "we gave them a goal and they went after it. We're in a great place right now to do it. They take it seriously."

It's worth noting that the potential of these youngsters was well known before high school when they were competing for the Rising Stars Track Club out of nearby Rialto. 

"For me and (Upland Head) Coach (Tarina) Brown, it's been on our radar for the last two, three years," Coach Day said of the potential for this group to be special.

Even as youth runners, Graves-Blanks said he and Davis-Lyric could see the potential all the way back to ...

"Three years ago when (Crawford and January) were freshmen when me and L (Davis-Lyric) decided we were going to go here," Graves-Blanks said. "We're going to break this record when the time comes." 

Based on the combination of the Upland quartet's current all-conditions PRs in the straight 110m hurdles, it totals 57.84, an average of 14.46 per runner. 

Only if it were that easy.

The shuttle hurdle relay is more complicated than a straight 110m hurdles race. 

The shuttle hurdle relay takes laser focus because it can be chaos. You have runners coming at you in an adjacent lane. There's the threat of hurdles getting knocked over into a different lane. A premature start could mean disqualification. It takes patience, precision, and skill, as well as a bit of luck.

There's a reason only a handful of teams in CA history have broken 60 seconds.

Pulling from the USATF competition rule book, "the shuttle hurdle relay consists of four members running the hurdles in adjacent lanes in opposite directions using the same hurdle height, spacing, and distance as the standard hurdle event. After the race start, each team member must be motionless in a set position when they start and shall start only after the incoming team member's torso breaks the plane of the leading edge of the passing zone. No baton or other exchange is required."

"It's the same as the 110," said January (pictured above). "You have to focus on your lane and go straight forward and not worry about all the other hurdles."

To a man, they admit they have not run a shuttle hurdle relay race to this point and only simulated it in practice. 

"Our first time will be our best time," Graves-Blanks (pictured below) said with a bright smile.

The athletes and Coach Day said they still have a lot to clean up, snapping their legs over the hurdles, not gliding over hurdles, running harder between barriers, et cet. 

"We're just going to give it a shot," Coach Day said. "If we can make it happen, we'll make it happen. If we can't, we'll get back in the trenches and get back after it."

The shuttle hurdle relay is not part of the usual track event lineup in California. Only certain invitationals offer it and opportunities have been more limited than usual during the inconsistent 2021 spring season. With this talented group of sophomores and juniors, the future appears bright.

"They want to leave their names on the history of track and field like the greats of the past," Coach Day said. "We think with the shuttle hurdle relay, we have an opportunity to leave our names on the history books for a long time."

Said Graves-Blanks: "I can't let anyone get in my head or get nervous. I just have to go out there and do what I do. If we all do what we do, which we should, the record is ours."

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Boys 4x110m Shuttle Hurdle Relay
1          Brophy College Prep, Phoenix, AZ                            :59.28            2007
2          Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY                                 :59.50            2009 
3          Weequahic, Newark, NJ                                             :59.93            2016
4          Loyola, Los Angeles, CA                                            1:00.26            2008
5          Mountain Pointe, Phoenix, AZ                                    1:00.33            2016
6          Brophy College Prep, Phoenix, AZ                            1:00.43            2014
7          Woodbridge, Irvine, CA                                              1:00.45            2016 
8          Red Mountain, AZ                                                      1:00.68            2018
9          Union Catholic, Paramus, NJ                                     1:00.70            2014
9          James Logan, Union City, CA                                    1:00.70            2004

Source: Arcadiainvitational.org

Note: The national high school boys record in the 110-meter shuttle hurdle relay is 56.32 set by Westside HS of Anderson, SC in 2004. The time to hit to make the top-10 national list for performances is 57.28. To make the national performers list, it's 57.78. 

Records Source: Prepcaltrack.com

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Inserted photos by Raymond Tran