The first thing you notice about Josh Marciniak is the long, flowing mane of blonde hair that he started growing out last year.
"My parents let me do it," the Valparaiso senior said. "They said if my grades are low, the hair's gone. It just kind of stuck this way."
The second thing you notice is the distance that the 6-foot-3 Marciniak consumes with each loping step.
"He's one of those kids I've always liked to call a fluid runner," Vikings coach Brett Polizotto said. "He has a nice stride. If I had the option, I'd pick 'em all to be tall. It definitely helps. It's a little more challenging with the (110-meter hurdles). He can get too close to the hurdles, so he has to take quicker steps as opposed to longer ones."
One of the region's top hurdlers at both distances, Marciniak inherits his height and talent from his dad, Paul. The elder Marciniak stands 6-6 and hurdled in high school at Boone Grove.
"He always says how he ran on cinders," Marciniak said. "He always pushed me in that direction a little bit, but I didn't want to do it for some reason. Now he videos most of my races. He gives me tidbits (of advice), just encouragement, that I can always try to do better."
It wasn't until eighth grade that Marciniak first tried the hurdles, at the urging of Ben Franklin Middle School coach Greg Kenworthy. As he began to sprout, Marciniak also started doing tae kwon do, which aided in his flexibility, while running cross country has built his endurance.
"It helps him, doing multiple events," Polizotto said. "He comes in with more fitness than kids who don't do much in the offseason."
That pays dividends in the 300s, where stamina separates the men from the boys in the final straightaway.
"You're going from fresh to tired," Polizotto said. "Things start to change. There are so many variables. You don't always get a clean race. You've got to learn on the fly. The 110s, it's strictly repetition, technique."
After narrowly missing regionals in both hurdles races as a sophomore, Marciniak qualified for state in the 300s last season, placing 14th in Bloomington.
"I got more athletic, stronger. I trained a little harder," Marciniak said. "My freshman year, I had the basics, but something wasn't clicking. (Teammate) Andrew (Kittridge) gave me some pointers. My form over the hurdles, understanding where I'm supposed to jump from, is still a little sketchy. When it feels really good, you don't feel like you're running hard."
Marciniak, who will run for Trine University, ranks fifth all-time on Valpo's 300 hurdles career list. He also anchors the Vikings' 1,600 relay, which has a chance to qualify for state as well.
"There are a lot of guys who are a little better than me," he said. "I just have to run a little faster and I can do well at state."
After that, he'll likely trim the golden locks.
"In the hurdles, I have to tie it off because I use blocks and it gets in my face," he said. "In the four-by-four, I let it go."