At 5-foot-10, Taylor Sebben is dwarfed alongside Danny Mills, standing a half-foot shorter than his Portage track teammate.
"Danny and I always joke around. I always tease him about being really tall," Sebben said. "He gets over (the hurdles) a lot cleaner, but I'd like to think I'm faster in between."
While size might matter on a basketball court, there's more than one way to clear a hurdle, and Sebben's above-average speed more than compensates for the Indian junior's average height.
"Obviously, Taylor's at a slight disadvantage," Portage coach Nick Haas said. "He has to get off the ground a little bit to clear it, be a little more flexible. He's just a little guy, but we try to get our sprinters to hurdle because you have to be fast in between the hurdles. Since his freshman year, Taylor's really developed a lot of speed. He's probably the second-fastest guy on the team."
Back in middle school, Sebben took up track at the suggestion of his dad Tony, a Portage football and basketball standout in his day, who thought it would help Taylor with football. He quickly took to the sport, finding the hurdles particularly fun.
"It's just different," Taylor Sebben said. "Everybody was like, 'Oh, I'm afraid to do that.' It made me different than the other sprinters. Sure, it would help a lot if I was 6-6, but my height usually hasn't made a difference. Mostly it's just form, snapping down quick after my lead leg goes over the hurdle."
Haas has coached Sebben since he was a freshman – "He'll never get rid of me," Sebben joked – and the two have developed a rapport that goes beyond coach and athlete.
"He's a hard worker," Haas said. "He could literally be in four, five events. We've thrown him in long jump. We've even thought about high jumping, but it's such a technical event. He's very coachable. He's almost so coachable, after every single rep, he's like, 'How's that? What did I do wrong?" I'll say, 'Taylor, that was fine.' He's just a nice kid."
Track is a sport where tenths and even hundredths of seconds can decide races, and Sebben doesn't want to be on the wrong end of that.
"It's just someting that I don't like to lose," said Sebben, an A-B student. "I know I'll never be perfect, but if it's something that will make me a champion, I'll do it. It comes down to the little things. My form's a lot better, sprinting and hurdling. Lifting (weights) helped a lot."
Sebben and Mills form the best hurdling combination in the area. Mills has the edge in the 110-meter hurdles while Sebben has it in the 300s. Whether it's in meets or practice, each serves as a daily source of motivation to the other.
"I'm mostly trying to beat him in the 110s and he's trying to beat me in the 300s," Sebben said. "I'm more confident in the 300s. They're easier for me just because I get more time to build up speed instead of just three quick steps (in between hurdles)."
Also the leadoff runner on Portage's 400 relay, Sebben finished eighth in the 300 hurdles in the Valpo Regional as a sophomore. Currently ranked third in the area in the 300s, he hopes to make it to regionals in both races and qualify for state.
"That's always the ultimate goal," he said.