Kevin Watson Hurdling Sequence

As some of you already know, I’m working with Kevin Watson this year in his bid to qualify for US Outdoor Nationals in 2007 in the 110m hurdles. Kevin, formerly of UNC-Chapel Hill, has moved to Raleigh to train with me, and we’ve already gotten started on our mission. On October 2, 2006, I had Kevin do a modified version of the quick-step workout, in which the hurdles are set up six yards apart. We set up five hurdles, and started at the 39-inch height, then moved up to 42 inches. This was Kevin’s first time going over 42’s in over a year, but he looked pretty good. Below you will find some photos from this practice session. In all the photos, he is clearing 42-inch hurdles. The photos were taken by one of my English students, Mason McNair, who is also a very good photographer.

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Photos 1-3: Dive into the hurdle. Here, Kevin begins his take-off dive into the hurdle. Take note of his lead arm. It reaches full height in Photo 1, where the thumb brushes the forehead. The elbow is bent at an angle that ensures the hand will not cross over to the trail-leg side of the body. In Photo 2, the lead arm is already beginning its pull backward, even before the lead-leg foot has reached the crossbar. In Photo 3, the lead arm continues to pull back. The thumb stays pointing up, and the elbow swings straight back, opening up only enough to give the trail leg room to drive upward underneath the armpit. Now take note of the lead leg. In Photo 1, the knee is driving forward, with the toe pointing up. The foot is already ahead of the knee, as the take-off foot has left the ground. In Photo 2, the toe stays pointing up, the knee stays partially bent, and the chest begins to push down over the thigh. In Photo 3, the knee is as close to locked as it will get, as the slight bend will allow for a quick snapdown and a quick return to sprinting form upon touchdown. Meanwhile, the toe remains pointing upward, and the chest pushes further down. Throughout all three photos, the alignment of the toe, knee, thigh, and chest remains consistent.

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Photos 4-6: On Top of the hurdle. Here, Kevin has reached full height. In Photo 4, the lead arm is pulling back, staying close to the body, and it continues to pull back tightly in Photos 5-6. The chin stays up throughout hurdle clearance, as do the eyes. All “lean” comes from the lower back, as the chest pushes down over the thigh in Photos 4-5, and begins to uncoil in Photo 6, as the lead leg begins to snap down. Again, the alignment of foot, to knee, to thigh, to chest, remains consistent. By Photo 5, the trail leg is beginning its ascent underneath the armpit. Notice that the trail leg does not swing widely; groin width is kept to a minimun. Though it may seem in Photo 5 that Kevin is clearing the hurdle too high, notice that the heel of the lead foot is grazing the crossbar, and the bent knee will allow him to land very close to the hurdle, which will increase his acceleration even before he touches down. The toe of trail leg could be a problem here, as it is pointing downward, and might clip the crossbar. By Photo 6, the trail-leg toe is at a better angle, but still dipping low a little bit. The trail arm is not ideal either. In Photo 4, you can see the hand hanging down, instead of resting on the hip. He could potentially hit the hurdle with that hand, based on its position in that photo. By Photo 5, it is in a better position, ready to punch back up upon touchdown.

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Photos 7-9: Touching down. Here, Kevin begins his descent back to the ground. Most noticeable in these photos is the rotation of the trail leg. In Photo 7, the lead arm is giving the trail leg just enough room to squeeze through. The wrist of the lead arm remains locked in a position that keeps the thumb of that hand pointing straight ahead, as opposed to pointing across the body. The elbow of the lead arm continues to pull back into its natural sprinting position. You won’t have to worry about Kevin hitting an opponent with a wide lead arm! Again, the toe of the lead leg remains pointing up so that he will land on the balls of his feet. The knee of the lead leg never completely locks. The eyes and chin remain up. The chest begins to rise as Kevin returns to sprinting motion, enabling the trail leg the room it needs to come up high so that it will be in a power position when he touches down. He did clip this hurdle with the toe of the trail leg, either because the ankle wasn’t quite flexed enough, or because the hips didn’t rotate quickly enough.

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Photos 10-12: Touchdown. Here, Kevin completes his flight over the hurdle and fluidly transitions back into sprinting motion. In Photo 10, he shows excellent alignment of the lead foot, knee, thigh, and chest, landing on the ball of his foot. The knee of the trail leg is high and tight, where he will have complete control over how long he wants the first stride off the hurdle to be. His facial muscles remain relaxed, revealing that he managed to stay relaxed throughout hurdle clearance and didn’t exert any wasted energy. In Photo 11, the trail leg is an excellent position. Toe up, ankle flexed, knee high and tight, facing the next hurdle. There is some imbalance in the arms, however, as the trail arm is slightly pointing across his body, and the lead arm is pulling back further than necessary. There seems to be a slight imbalance in the hips as well. In Photo 12, Kevin is back into sprinting mode, staying relaxed, but staying aggressive.

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Photos 13-15: Head-on angle. Take a look yourself from this angle, and see what you’re able to pick up.

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