You wouldn't expect someone like Eastwood sophomore Rachel McNay, who stands all of 5-foot-3, to be a champion track hurdler.
McNay's first-place finishes in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles at last Saturday's Suburban Lakes League meet didn't come out of nowhere. They were the result of hard work that began four years ago.
“I've been hurdling since the seventh grade,” McNay said. “My brother (Ryan) did track, but the coaches were splitting us up and I thought the hurdles would be fun, and I did well. I did the 100 and 200 hurdles in seventh grade I was pretty good for being the youngest one. In eighth grade I won both events in the SLL, and I did the 4x100 in middle school.”
McNay's times of 17.04 seconds in the 100 hurdles and 49.51 in the 300 hurdles helped Eastwood's girls team claim its 10th straight SLL championship. The Eagles scored 157 points to outscore runner-up Woodmore by 26 points.
Eastwood's boys’ team also captured its 10th straight title, scoring 173 points to beat runner-up Genoa by 76 points.
“Rachel had the fastest time coming in in the 300 hurdles,” Eagles girls coach Nikki Sabo said. “We were expecting her to do very well. She had the fourth- or fifth-best time in the 100, so when she pulled off the 1-2 combination there, that was pretty exciting.
“Rachel is a very hard worker. During the winter she'll work on her hurdles with (assistant coach) Ethan Downey, and she also will do the lifting program that my husband, Brian Sabo, has established for the athletes. She works through those programs in the winter and summer to prepare for the season.”
At the SLL meet McNay teamed with Katlin Nicely, Whitney Hoodlebrink and Ashley Seifert to help the Eagles take third place in the 4x400 relay. She ran a personal best in the 100 hurdles – teammate Jessica Schulte took second in that event – and was thrilled that she helped Eastwood claim its 10th straight title.
“I was really excited,” McNay said. “I wasn't expecting to do so well in the 100s, but I pulled off a first and I was really excited with that. I went into the 300s with the fastest time, hoping I was going to win. The 4x400, as a team we knew we would do pretty well and we were happy and grateful with third place.”
Nikki Sabo said McNay's improvement has been steady throughout the season. An athlete who used a four-step approach between each hurdle in the 100 meters last season, McNay has gone to a three-step approach this spring.
“This year, as the season progressed, she's been able to three-step the hurdles,” Sabo said. “When you're 5-3 and can three-step the 100 hurdles, that's pretty impressive.”
McNay said Downey gave her a list of exercises that would help her become an effective three-step hurdler.
“I just kept getting better and better at it,” McNay said. “I had to learn how to sprint through them and not stride. He did certain exercises where he flopped the hurdle over. I like the 100s, but I do better in the 300s. I like the 300s, but it's a really hard race.”
McNay, 16, competed in both hurdles events and the 4x400 at this week's Division II district meet at Oak Harbor. The top four placers in each event advance to next week's regional at Lexington.
“I think she has a chance to make it out in all three races,” Sabo said. “Her times are dropping in all three. The 300s, that has been her best event all year and she has one of the fastest times coming in. In the 100s, she keeps improving and I think she can advance.”
McNay said she's confident that she can compete at the regional level.
“I feel I can do a little bit better,” she said. “I've gotten better since the beginning of the season and I'm hoping to move on to regionals, especially in the 300s.”