When Dane Eckweiler ran track as a freshman at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Conn., he didn't have a favorable experience with hurdling.
"I think there were only two meets I didn't fall," Eckweiler said.
Suffice it to say, when he and family moved to Northwest Indiana, Eckweiler wasn't thrilled with what his new coaches at Wheeler had in mind for him.
"Coach (Rhonda) Anderson thought right away he could be a hurdler," Bearcats coach Louie Guillen said.
Eckweiler quit before conditioning was even done as a sophomore. He returned last season, running primarily the 400, though he didn't have a particular affinity for that race either.
"I joined on the condition I didn't have to do hurdles," he said. "I don't know what event I wanted to do."
Then before the Greater South Shore Conference meet, out of the blue, Eckweiler asked to be put into the 300-meter hurdles.
"I just wanted to do it for the team, to score points," he said.
Despite little or no training in the event for nearly two years, Eckweiler finished sixth. Suddenly, the light went on.
"Track became completely different than what it used to be for me," he said. "I realized my potential, that I could be really good if I wanted to be. It would be a waste if I didn't try to be as good as I can. I realized coach (Anderson) knew what she was talking about. I always knew she was good. I was just being stubborn. I didn't want to (hurdle)."
Anderson, the Wheeler girls coach, was a 1976 U.S. Olympic hurdler. Her daughter Taylor Gilles, now at Indiana State, was a state medalist in the 100 hurdles last year. Anderson corrected a trail leg flaw in Eckweiler's form and he's rarely fallen since. But even when he does, his disposition about it has completely changed.
"I was kind of scared of falling, embarrassed by it," he said. "Now I'm proud of falling. I want to get back up. I fell Friday and got like a rug burn on my arm. I love it."
While he does both events, Eckweiler particularly enjoys the 300s.
"Technique is less important. You can even have bad form and still win," he said. "Anyone can ran a short distance. The 300 hurdles are more heart than the 110s. It's not just a race of speed. It's who wants it more."
In next week's GSSC meet, Guillen will run Eckweiler in both hurdles races and a pair of relays.
"He's one of our cornerstones," Guillen said. "He's going to be integral if we want to win it. He's got good leg speed and working with Rhonda has given him his best form. He's really embraced hurdling, the philosophy of the program, and he's really thriving with it."
After high school, Eckweiler will head back east with plans to study film production at Ithaca College. In the meantime, he'd like to pen a happy ending to his personal hurdling saga.
"I want to break 40 in the (300) hurdles," he said. "That should get me to state."