Cuero's Sheppard hurdles obstacles on way to state meet
May 8, 2012 at 12:08 a.m.
CUERO - The irony is not lost on Abby Sheppard.
The Cuero junior will line up for the 300-meter hurdles at the UIL Class 3A Track & Field State Championships in Lane 2, the same lane she ran in last year.
Sheppard hasn't forgotten last year's race. She came into the state meet as top seed after setting a regional meet record in the event.
But she hit the first hurdle and never recovered, finishing fifth.
"I don't really think about it," Sheppard said. "I made it to state with the top time. That was already great right there. I didn't come out winning, but the fact that I can come out this way this year means nothing really happened."
Cuero coach Layne Elkins offered Sheppard an opportunity to change events this season and run the 400, thinking it might provide an easier path to the state meet.
But Sheppard was determined to stick with the hurdles.
She did follow Elkins' suggestion and began competing in the 100 hurdles with the idea that it would help her performance in the 300 hurdles.
Sheppard exceeded expectations, winning regional titles in the 100 and 300 hurdles and will compete in both events on Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
"I never really expected to go to state in the 100's because I just started," she said. "I've improved so much in that this year. There's a little less pressure in the 100's. You think less about it and it's more fun. The 100's also make me less nervous with the 300's after I get done."
Elkins isn't worried about Sheppard's nerves becoming an issue after watching her perform this season.
"She's gotten more confident in going over the hurdles," he said. "That's a big issue with hurdlers is the more confident you can get them in attacking the hurdles. She's done a lot better in working on her form and getting that where it needs to be."
Sheppard is the top seed in the 100 hurdles and the third seed in the 300 hurdles, although her time in 300 hurdles at the District 28-3A meet is faster than the top seed.
"I feel good this week," Sheppard said. "I'm healthy and at district and regionals I was kind of sick. I'm actually kind of glad I'm in the second lane. I haven't had it all year and I can show them I can do it."
Sheppard has spent a good part of the last two weeks preparing to run in Lane 2, which is different than the inside lanes.
"There's a little difference in how you approach the race because you're actually in the curve," Elkins said. "We've worked on it. There's not a track around here that has that kind of setup where you're in Lane 1 or 2 and you're sitting in the curve.
"We made an adjustment on our track and I moved her back so now she's got to run the curve and take that first hurdle and get used to that and she's fine with it."
Sheppard is also more relaxed than she was last year and better prepared for what awaits her in Austin.
"I know anything can happen," she said. "I know I worked hard and I think I just got way too nervous and just thought about everything too much last year. It just came too quickly. Now I've soaked it all in and I think I'm ready."
Elkins is convinced Sheppard is ready to put what happened in the past to rest.
"We talked about it and said, 'Hey, it's redemption time.,' he said. "How better to redeem yourself than to do it in the same way we did it last year."