FPC's Nathan Farrell set the U.S. No. 1 time in 300-meter hurdles at the Five Star Conference Championship on March 9.
Nathan Farrell hadn’t felt this good before a race in a long time.
As a talented hurdler and sprinter at Spruce Creek last season, he grew accustomed to competing in four-plus events per meet. He was always running and jumping on tired legs.
But this meet — this season — was different.
His coaches at Flagler Palm Coast have limited him to a maximum of three events per meet. At the Five Star Conference Championship on March 9, he competed in only two.
For the first time in who knows how long, he had a bounce in his step when he took to the block for the preliminary round of the 300-meter hurdles. He cruised his way to the finals with a time of 37.9 seconds, a personal best.
The best part: his legs were still fresh.
Before the final, Bulldogs head coach David Halliday gave him a pep talk. “He just told me to go all out,” Farrell said.
Farrell crouched into his stance in the final of the 300-meter hurdles, awaiting the sharp crack of the starter’s pistol. He started slow. At least, more slowly than he usually does. By the third hurdle, he realized he needed to pick up the pace.
As he rounded the track at Flagler Palm Coast High School, nearing the final hurdle, he could hear Halliday’s piercing whistle calling him home to the finish line.
Farrell completed the race in 37.5 seconds, a new personal record and a U.S. No. 1 time.
“I was happy, I guess, but I have to stay humble,” Farrell shrugged. “I just want to run faster each week. There’s so much stuff I can work on.”
‘I knew I couldn’t be scared anymore’
The hurdles are among the most technical events in all of track and field. Each step and each leap is perfectly timed, perfectly calculated. It’s a delicately balanced concoction of speed and form. One is meaningless without the other.
But Farrell believes that attitude is what separates the elite hurdler from everyone else.
“It’s all in the mind,” he said. “Most people are scared to go over hurdles. You just have to run through them.”
There was a time when the mere sight of a hurdle gave him anxiety. In a meet at First Academy his freshman year, Farrell fell twice in the same race while hurdling for Spruce Creek. The feeling of embarrassment stayed with him for months. When he approached a hurdle, he was hesitant. His times never dropped. He couldn’t shake the fear.
But entering his sophomore year, he vowed to change.
“I knew I couldn’t be scared anymore,” he said.
Farrell burst onto the scene as one of the most talented hurdlers in the area as a sophomore last season. He dedicated all of his time to blending his speed with his newly acquired form.
"It’s not necessarily who is the fastest person. It’s the quickest person with the best technique.”
David Halliday, FPC track and field coach
He takes 15 steps before each hurdle in the 300-meter hurdles. Now, he never missteps.
The hurdles that used to inspire fear during each race? He no longer sees them.
“I just attack them,” Farrell said. “It’s like muscle memory now.”
‘The sky’s the limit’
It’s spring break, nearly a week after the Five Star Conference Championship, and Farrell and several of his teammates sit huddled around an ice bath after a grueling practice at FPC High School.
It’s his first season with the team and already, things are different.
The amount of work, the type of work and how practices are structured — it’s more like a college program than a high school program.
And that’s just how Halliday likes it.
Farrell is the “quintessential coachable athlete,” according to Halliday. He takes criticism well. He adjusts on the fly. He’s open-minded. And he doesn’t cut corners.
“He was a pretty talented kid last year,” Halliday said. “But I think he’s taken it to a whole new level this year. He’s seeing that at FPC, we do things a little differently than most schools.”
Farrell’s skill for hurdling was obvious the moment he arrived at FPC, but his coaches wanted to round him out as an athlete. In addition to the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, Farrell always competes in the 4x400-meter relay and trains with the other sprinters and distance runners.
“He wanted to take his game to the next level,” Halliday said. “The sky’s the limit for him.”