MOROCCO | Michael Jordan's sons were expected to play basketball, though they couldn't hold Dad's shoelaces.
North Newton hurdler Austin Olive is different. He thrives on upholding the family tradition established by father Jamie and uncle Mark.
His uncle holds the 110-meter high hurdles school record of 15.2 set in 1980. Austin's personal best is 15.5.
"I feel it's my job to beat this record set that long ago," Austin said. "I love doing it. I like the rush you get in the straightaway. I'm a car guy and I love drag racing, so this is kinda like my drag race.
"You take your three steps, then the next hurdle, three steps and the next hurdle, and watch 'em all disappear. It's like a drag race, almost."
Olive also competes in the 300 lows and runs third leg on the Spartans' 400 relay.
There would be "pressure" to hurdle if he loathed the sport, but he doesn't. He hopes to convert freshman brother Noah.
"He played baseball so we all gave him a hard time," Olive said, smiling. "He's running track next year. Let's put it that way."
Schuyler Gargano, Olive's cousin, also runs track at North Newton. Yes, he's a hurdler and pretty good, too.
"I'm not that fast of a kid," Olive said. "Form is the big thing in hurdles and speed comes afterwards. I see a lot of kids at meets who are fast, but their form isn't how it should be."
Proper stretching (right leg extended in seated position, head touching ground) is key, he added, because it gives you the needed flexibility.
"I've been running hurdles since the sixth grade and every year I get a little bit closer and closer. Hopefully, this is my year to get the record," Olive said. "I'm only three-tenths of a second from it."
He was a regional qualifier as a junior but didn't advance. He placed second at the Benton Central Sectional and would've won the event, he said, but mis-stepped early in the race and it cost him.
Olive is defending Greater South Shore Conference champ and hasn't been beaten this season.
His best in the 300 lows is a respectable 44.2.
"He's worked really hard at it, is excited about it, and that's the big thing," coach Tim Loughmiller said. "He's about as good a hurdler as I've ever coached.
"If he gets a combination of the right weather and competition, he's more than capable of breaking the (school) record."