by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The 300-meter intermediate hurdles event is one of the most grueling tasks in high school sports, considering that you’re going hard for the length of three football fields while leaping over eight 36-inch hurdles. This is how Elk River hurdles standout Logan Grace describes it: “The first 100, you go as fast as you can. The rest of the race, you just try to hang on. The last 100, you use whatever you have left. Once I turn that corner, I go all out.”
That home stretch is the fun part, though, despite the pain. At least, it’s fun if you’re in contention, which Grace usually is.
“We always have the section true-team at home, and that’s the most fun,” he said, “because you can always hear the crowd cheering for you. At the Hamline Elite meet, there’s a good crowd there, too.”
Grace is coming off a breakout junior year as a four-event contributor (both hurdle races and two relays) and has high goals for his final prep campaign. In 2012 he earned two Northwest Suburban Conference golds by winning the 300H in 39.33, his PB, and leading off the 4×400 team (3:28.33) while placing fourth in the 110 highs. At Section 7AA, he took second in the 300 with 39.74 to earn a state trip, while just missing with thirds in the highs and 4×400. At state he was 11th in the 300 prelims, not making finals, where seven of nine were seniors.
“One of my goals this year is to shoot for that team 300 record. I want to make state in the 110, too, and place in the top five in the 300.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Grace’s personal bests are 15.34 in the 110 and 39.33 in the 300. His 300 time ranks No. 3 all time. The record, 38.2 by Rick Steblay, has stood since 1979.
Another challenge was issued by Steve Hamilton, the new girls head coach and hurdles coach. “Coach told me he had a 14.7 in high school, and he wants me to beat that.”
In this exasperating late spring with six outdoor meets called off so far, the Elks have competed in two indoor meets. Grace won the 55-meter hurdles in a small St. John’s meet and took second behind an Irondale athlete in an elite St. Thomas meet.
Elks coach Brian Gilbertson lauds Grace for his discipline and his dedication. Grace has worked out indoors with Gopher coaches the last two winters, once a week for six weeks.
“Logan has done indoor track the past two seasons to prepare for the outdoor season, which has contributed to him being one of the top hurdlers in the state,” said Gilbertson. “He is very focused with his training and works hard to perfect the technical aspects.”
Along with hurdles, Grace is a strong 200 and 400 runner as needed, with a relay split PB of 50.4 seconds. “He puts us in position to win it time after time,” Gilbertson noted.
Asked what it takes to be a good hurdler, Grace said, “It helps to be taller. And you need flexibility, and a lot of leg strength, because it’s more than just a sprint. And core strength (back and stomach).”
As a sophomore, not yet a standout hurdler, he scored in relays in the big meets, including fourth in the NWSC and sixth in 7AA in the 4×400, and fifth at 7AA in the 4×200.
While a one-sport athlete at ERHS, Grace was also a motocross competitor from ages 9 to 12, then a standout BMX racer from 12 to 16, capped by winning the state’s 16-year-old title the last year he raced. He took fourth at age 15 after cracking a collarbone in the semifinals. He said he got out of BMX when it got a little too rough and reckless, with the bigger kids, but he’s still an avid biker for recreation, owning both a mountain bike and road bike. Another passion is playing the piano. He leans toward chemistry as a career.
THE GRACE SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Lori Grace, Mike Grace … Sport: track, formerly BMX … Other activities: band (tuba) in grades 9-11 … Academics: 3.91 GPA …. College plans: U of M, probably chemical engineering
Favorite stuff — Class: chemistry, physics … TV show: “Big Bang Theory,” “Hawaii Five-O” … Food: fettucini alfredo; grilled cheese with tomato soup … Drink: water, milk … Team: Vikings … Athlete: Aries Merritt … Kickback activity: piano, fishing, mountain biking … Would like to visit: France