ORLAND PARK | Crete-Monee senior Rashad Hulbert moves like a machine over the hurdles. Unlike less-experienced competitors, his head never bobs up and down as he strides over each obstacle. Unlike teammate Brandon Sykes, his lead foot doesn't clip the hurdle in the 110 meters, but clears it, every time.
Hulbert's time in the 110 hurdles at Thursday's Pete Struck Eagle Classic at Sandburg was fast, and wind-aided, but the 13.22 clocking raised eyebrows, as did Sykes' second-place time of 13.25. Suffice it to say that Hulbert edged Sykes by that narrow a margin, but a win is still a win.
Hulbert's won plenty this year. His career exploits are why he'll be at Louisiana State in the fall. His current work should again point him to the big blue track at Eastern Illinois for the state Class 3A finals. But beating Sykes, who was never off his shoulder in the final, was a chore.
"It was kind of a sloppy race towards the end," Hulbert said. "But I finished up."
A lean at the line helped set the final margin. Hulbert had less trouble in the 300 hurdles, in which he's the defending state Class 3A champion. He outdistanced runner-up Sykes and the rest of the field.
"He got me at the start," Sykes said. "He opened it up."
"My main goal was to just finish," said Hulbert, aware that the temperature had dipped to 44 degrees by the time of the 300. "I wasn't looking for a super-fast race. I just wanted a clean race."
Those wins and a Warrior win in the 1,600-meter relay brought Crete-Monee a fourth-place finish in the team competition with 59 points. Host Sandburg won with 83 points.
Sykes and Hulbert have a great advantage being able to run against each other every day in practice.
"When I run, all I do is focus on racing him, because if I can keep up with him, I can keep up with anybody," Sykes said. "I use him to make me run faster."
It works the same for Hulbert.
"He pushes me a lot," Hulbert said. "I can't just go out and run. He keeps me on top of my game. I like that pressure of competition."
Hulbert and Sykes finished off the night by book ending the Warriors' surprise victory over Downers Grove North in the 1,600 relay. Taris Simmons and Tyler Whittler ran the middle legs.
T.F. South's Dylan Angell captured the 800 in 2:00.74, a romp of nearly three seconds over Sandburg's Aaron Graves (2:03.73).