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Kent-Meridian's Madden seeks state berth in hurdles
Sara Madden runs fast and jumps far, and might just represent her school in the Class 4A state championship track and field meet if she can shape up her footwork.
Madden, a Kent-Meridian High School hurdler, is set up for a potential state berth if she can shave another fraction of a second off of her time.
The senior sprinter's mark of 46.30 seconds ranks as the eighth seed in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles for the district meet Friday and Saturday at French Field. Her time is the 13th fastest in state.
She's been running since sixth grade, where she ran the 600-yard run, and progressed to hurdles when she was in the seventh grade as her coach, seeing her flexibility, put her on the hurdles.
"My coach saw me stretching, saw I was really flexible and just threw me in the hurdles, and I was their number one hurdler for two years," Madden says.
She's been running almost exclusively, largely because she's never enjoyed anything else quite as much.
"I tried playing basketball in middle school but I just didn't have the heart for it," she said.
Madden also runs the 400 relay, 100 hurdles and cross country but feels that they support what she does in the 300. She says she gets to practice sprinting from the 400, hurdle technique from the 100, and her distance running helps with her endurance.
But that doesn't mean she's completely confident about her chances at state. In particular she knows she has to work on her approach and dexterity, a trait that high level hurdlers develop.
"The best hurdlers, I find, can switch legs really easily, especially in the longer races, because you don't want to be stuttering, 'cause that loses time," she says.
"I've been switching from the start," she says, "but it's a lot harder for me to get over the hurdle as quickly as I can."
It doesn't help that in the back of her mind, Madden has the memory of a freshman year accident, which while not career ending, was painful. When she cut a hurdle too close, she fell and punctured her shin on the obstacle.
"Just that little voice in the back of my head I guess," she says, "whenever I'm running I think about it and try to attack the hurdle, but there's always that little voice."
While she's learning to become a better hurdler, Madden also passes on what she learns to both her immediate teammates at Kent-Meridian and summer team at the Federal Way Track Club.
"They are just like my little sisters, and while they do distance and I do hurdles they're still on the same track," she says.
She enjoys the feeling of being a mentor to others, whether it's high school or club track or cross country.
"I really do love coaching, when I get older — on top of a career — I really do want to coach," she says. "Probably the high school level. I've always loved being a mentor to younger athletes, younger kids, I just love helping others."
While she can't single out a coach as a major motivator in her life, Madden says her parents have been very important, especially her father Steve, who competed in javelin and pole vault in high school.
"My parents really do push me, because I'm an only child," she says.
Her father is constantly telling her how close she is to beating her competition and encouraging her to push herself.
Madden is set to attend Western Oregon University in the fall, although she won't have a track scholarship yet. The school requires athletes to compete for a year and gradually ease them onto an academic scholarship as they prove their abilities. A state championship appearance would no doubt help that along.