Hurdle record a ‘Lock’ to be broken

ELLSWORTH — After clearing what was literally the final hurdle of her high school track career, senior Paige Sawyer immediately looked to the clock in the infield to check her time.

When she saw the number, 16.16 seconds, she was ecstatic.

“It was super exciting,” Sawyer remembered.

She had just broken the Ellsworth High School record in the 100-meter hurdles, a record that had stood for over 20 years. The previous record-holder was Becky Lock, a recent inductee into the EHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Once she realized she’d done it, Sawyer knew immediately that there was someone else at the track that day who would be able to share in that excitement: Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School track coach Paul Lock, Becky’s father.

One might expect Lock to be upset that his daughter’s record had been broken after all these years, but his reaction was quite the opposite.

“The first person I looked at was Mr. Lock,” said Sawyer, “and I could just see the happiness on his face. It was one of the happiest moments I’ve had.”

That’s because Lock, who has been coaching track for almost 40 years now, actively worked with Sawyer on breaking the record throughout the year.

“When I first started doing outdoor track in the winter, the first thing [Paige] said to me was, ‘Mr. Lock, I want to break your daughter’s record,’” Lock recounted. “And Becky’s reaction when I told her was: ‘Yay! Go for it.’”

With Becky’s full support, the pair got to work on refining Sawyer’s technique in hopes of shaving precious seconds off her time.

Lock, who ran the hurdles in high school and was coached by Jimmy Shedeck, has been coaching track now for almost 40 years. He knows that it takes a special kind of athlete to compete in the hurdles due to the degree of difficulty in mastering the technique.

“There’s nothing that’s more complicated than hurdles,” Lock explained. “You also have to have a little bit of courage when you’re in fifth, sixth grade to get over those hurdles.

“A lot of people fall. When they’re on the ground, patching up their wounds, as a coach I always ask if they want to keep doing what they’re doing. The best hurdlers are obviously courageous and want to keep going.”

Lock described the progression that you generally see from hurdlers as they refine their technique over the years. When runners first start out on the hurdles in middle school, they will generally take five steps in between each hurdle. Once they get to the end of their middle school career, they will generally be taking four steps in between. High school and college hurdlers will get that number down to three steps. The fewer the steps, the faster the time, with an odd number of steps being beneficial because it allows the runner to alternate their lead leg and trail leg.

Ellsworth High School Hall-of-Fame athlete Becky Lock’s record in the 100-meter hurdles stood for 21 years. This year her father, Paul Lock, helped coach EHS senior Paige Sawyer as she worked to break that record. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN FILE PHOTO

Sawyer, says Lock, began three-stepping during this year’s indoor track season.

“Her mechanics, as with Becky’s mechanics, were beautiful,” said Lock. And that’s how he knew there was a chance the record might fall.

What started out as a joke between Sawyer and Lock quickly morphed into an attainable reality as the pair worked together throughout the spring track season. Though Lock was a middle school coach, he would often spend extra hours helping Sawyer work on her form.

“Mr. Lock would stay after [middle school] practice and do drills with me,” Sawyer remembered appreciatively. “Even once school was over he was still there, even though he didn’t have to be.”

Sawyer didn’t win the race in which she broke the record, coming in third in the state final. But it’s that kind of personal achievement that has kept Lock involved in the sport for so long and what he enjoys most about the coaching process.

“In track you can feel good about yourself by bettering yourself, getting a new PR,” Lock explained. “You don’t have to come in first. Kids will cheer for you if you just improve on your previous time … You have to push yourself individually to reach your best potential. Some pursue it harder, some put in more effort than others. In track it’s all within you, you get what you put into it.”

It was Lock’s love for the sport and the satisfaction he gets from helping athletes like Sawyer succeed that overrode his parental instincts in this instance.

Paige Sawyer and Paul Lock celebrate together after Sawyer broke the 100-meter hurdles record previously held by Lock’s daughter, Becky. Sawyer didn’t win the race, but she and Lock were both exceptionally proud of the achievement, as was Becky. PHOTO COURTESY PAUL LOCK

“It’s kind of nice for your daughter to have a record, it makes a parent feel good,” Lock explained. “Then the drive that Paige had and being her coach and trying to refine her mechanics and keep her focused on the fact that she could do this, and then to see her do it, I felt happy. I was glad. It was a happy/sad hurdle.”

Plus, Lock made sure to mention, Becky still holds the record in the 300-meter hurdles. And he doesn’t see that being broken any time soon.

The 100-meter hurdles record, however, is a different story. Sawyer, who is headed to St. Joe’s next year to play soccer, has already identified the next record holder: Adriana Richardson.

Richardson, daughter of head coach Darren Richardson, and Sawyer have been friends for some time, but this was the first year they got to run together.

“I told Adriana, ‘Now you go get it!” said Sawyer. “She doesn’t think she can do it, but I honestly think she can. She’s young, though, she’s just a freshman. So, she has three years left to get it.”

Zachary Lanning

Zachary Lanning

News reporter Zach Lanning covers news and features in the Ellsworth area. He comes to Ellsworth by way of New Jersey, which he hopes you don't hold against him. Email him at [email protected].

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