Hurdles was a way out for Damian Silver: A way out of work.
He tried out the event a few days into his sophomore season with the Nash Central track team and went back to it because he was too winded while running regular events. He wanted something where he could take a few more breaks.
Two years and three gold medals later, the hurdles are again providing Silver with a way out. This time, he has found a way out of paying for college.
Silver, who will attend Hampton University on a full athletic scholarship next year, is the 2014 All-Area Telegram Boys’ Track Athlete of the Year.
“Let’s just go over there to the hurdles because you don’t have to do as much work,” Silver remembers telling his friend.
Silver didn’t even qualify for the conference meet after his sophomore season, which was his first one the team. He picked up the 110 high hurdles on the second-to-last meet of the year. Eventually, what started as a way out of work fueled his work ethic.
“You can give him a workout, and he’ll go complete the workout,” Nash Central boys’ track coach Juan Jackson said. “As soon as the workout was done, he’d want extra work.”
The way Silver approaches the hurdles definitely has changed in just two years. As a member of a devoted senior class, Silver has gone from an also-ran to making others feel as if they might as well not have run.
Silver won the state championship in the 110 and 300 hurdles during the spring after winning the 55 hurdles during the indoor track season. He finished second last year in the 110, but this year, he swept the season in both events, winning the conference, regional and state meets.
“Damian is a very quiet guy,” Jackson said. “He lets his performance speak for him. Every time he steps on the track, he expects to win.”
The soft-spoken, reserved senior prefers to let his work ethic on the track serve as a guide to younger athletes instead of his voice. Silver has only one cocky trait about him. He knows he’s going to win when he puts his feet in the blocks – hurdles lined up in front of him.
“It’s just a winner’s mentality,” Silver said. “I know that I’ve worked hard enough.”
Silver workied his way to a state championship after failing to even qualify for the Big East Conference meet as a sophomore.
He is gifted athletically like all state champions. Silver posted the Bulldogs’ fastest 100 and 200 times while also competing in the triple and long jumps at a high level. He possesses everything Jackson could have wanted in a competitor.
“He’s the total package,” Jackson said. “He certainly has the athleticism to compete on any level.”
Just before races, Silver doesn’t think too much. Most of his preparation is done, aside from the usual pre-race stretching exercises. When his event is called, he steps away from his teammates to take 15 minutes to himself.
He doesn’t use the 15 minutes to visualize the races or go through any last-minute workouts. Instead, he makes sure his uniform fits properly.
“I’m just ready to race,” Silver said. “I don’t think about it too much.”
Regardless of how they start, most of Silver’s races end the same way. The quiet hurdler lets the bulky diamond encrusted ring on his right hand do the talking – and eventually the second championship ring he’ll receive next fall should speak even louder.
Silver expects next year to be exactly like his experience from two years ago, when he had to work his way up the team’s ladder.
It should be very similar, and so should his rise. One thing is different, though.
The hurdles are no longer a way to keep from working for Silver. Its specialized style has become something that Silver loves.
“It’s not just running,” Silver said. “You have to train yourself to have the technique and the form. ... It’s a mixture of running, getting faster and putting technique and form with it.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org