Rashad Hulbert was worried, but not about himself.
The Crete-Monee senior was concerned the Warriors’ 400-meter relay team, of which he was a part, wasn’t going to advance from the Class 3A sectional at Homewood-Flossmoor to state competition.
“I had a little bit of worry that we wouldn’t make it in,” Hulbert said, noting the absence of usual sidekick Brandon Sykes, “but everybody ran their best.”
And quickly enough that the Warriors, despite finishing fifth in the relay, were among six teams to advance to this weekend’s IHSA championship finale in Charleston.
It was the only real worry of his day, which otherwise went phenomenally well. Hulbert qualified easily in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles – he’s the defending 3A champion in the latter – and led the Warriors’ 1,600-meter relay team to victory in the final race of the night.
Do the math. Hulbert had a hand in 34 of the 42 points the Warriors piled up at the H-F Sectional, and ran his career state qualification total to 10 events. The only other individual qualifier for Crete-Monee is senior Ola Ogunlana, in discus.
But the focus will be on Hulbert, and his goal of winning both hurdle championships, at Eastern Illinois. He’s ranked first among entrants in the 110 hurdles, his blistering time of 13.99 seconds outpacing second-ranked Derrick Willies of Rock Island (14.07). And he’s second to Willies’ 38.12 in the 300 hurdles with his 38.17 clocking.
“I just focused on running smooth,” Hulbert said after his effort in the 110. “I ran for time. No false starts, no big mistakes.”
In other words, just get there. And Hulbert got there so quickly in the 110, there’s a thought that the state finals record of 13.79, set by Wheaton North’s A.J. Harris in the 2002 Class AA final, is in jeopardy. That, though, would be a bonus. It’s the hurdle double he’s shooting for.
“Rashad had the goal of being a double champion in the hurdles after winning the 300 hurdles last season,” coach Brian O’Donnell said. “He believes he can go faster (than 13.99).”
Crete-Monee’s had some notable runners over the years, but only Hulbert has captured an individual state title. Now he wants two. He won last year’s 300 in 37.60, and took third in the 110 behind Thornridge’s Gary Ford and Batavia’s Rob Mohr, both of whom have graduated.
Hulbert’s record to this point is stellar. But if he collects the 110-300 double, he’ll be the first to do so in any class since Eric’s Ted McMillan did so in Class A in 2005. It last happened in Class AA, which is now 3A, in 1999, when Wheaton Warrenville South’s Jon Schweighardt doubled. The last area runner to do so was Thornwood’s Reggie Torian, in 1993.
“If he is able to achieve his goal of being a dual champion, he’ll solidify his position as the greatest track athlete in our school’s history,” O’Donnell said.
And that would be a high hurdle for Hulbert’s successors to surmount.