Germantown's Holcomb overcomes obstacles to win state high hurdle title

Crash in 300s no deterrent

June 4, 2012

Germantown - The track season for unflappable Germantown WIAA 110-meter high hurdle state champion Ben Holcomb was not going to end the way his football season did.

Though it had the potential to do so.

Holcomb, whose CNI All-Suburban-level football season ended early in the state playoff football loss to Sussex Hamilton with a bad thumb injury, had easily advanced to the WIAA State Track finals as the top qualifier in the 110-meter high hurdles in the meet in La Crosse on Friday.

He was also considered a top threat in the 300 intermediate hurdles and was going neck-and-neck with sectional rival Shawn Michels of Oconomowoc in the third and final heat of the race later that same day. They went into the last hurdle together, only Holcomb didn't make it, crashing into it with his lead leg and falling to the hot track surface as Michels sped to the finish line.

Holcomb got up, dusted himself off and walked across the finish line, with his hopes of another state medal dashed and the pain and concern of a mildly sprained left ankle. But in his truly inscrutable, even-keeled way, he got himself to the training room, got the ankle treated, and went about getting ready to try and win the high hurdles Saturday.

He did, with another school record and state best time of 14.22. He was a good 0.43 of a second ahead of Wisconsin Rapids' Vince Biegel in second (14.65).

"It was feeling good," Holcomb said of the ankle. "I was a little worried about it during warm-ups, but it was my lead leg, so that meant I didn't have to land on it that hard. Still, there was a lot of ice I had to put on it Friday night.

"… It was disappointing (about the 300s), so I used it as motivation to push myself and win a state title. I shook it off and tried not think about it too hard. The plan was just to go out there and run a clean race, which I did.

"… I knew this was possible. I worked hard throughout the season and I owe my dad (Randy) a lot. He was a hurdler in high school (in Iowa) and finished second in his state meet."

That Holcomb was able to shake things off and win a state title was no surprise to his coach Jared Foerch, who ironically, anchored Germantown's state championship 1,600 relay in 2007, which was the Warhawks' last individual state crown before Holcomb's race Saturday.

"That was him to a 'T'," Foerch said. "His parents were actually more upset about it than he was. So following that race (the 300), the idea was to keep his schedule as normal as we could make it. But he really is something. He's just very low key. Nothing really upsets him too much.

"He just moved on and went on to the next race. My first thought after the championship was that he broke the school record again and unlike last week (when he did at sectionals with the help of a heavy backing wind), there were going to be no asterisk attached to this one.

"It was clean."

Starting football early

Holcomb, who heads to the University of Minnesota on Saturday to start preliminary football practices and enroll in some early classes as a preferred walk-on, said he never really does get too upset about anything. Even missing his graduation on Sunday because of that early move to Minnesota doesn't bother him too much.

"I am a little sorry about that, but sitting out in the hot sun all day, I won't miss that too much," he said with a small laugh. "No, I try to stay pretty calm. Even in a tense football game, I try to stay calm and collected."

Holcomb is also happy to join the small fraternity of Warhawks hurdle champions that includes 1979 and 1980 300 low hurdle champ Jerry Vance and 2005 110 high hurdle champ Adam Schleis.

He's looking for his football path at Minnesota to have the same upward trajectory that his track career took at Germantown as he plans to major in medicine.

"I'm looking to have a great career," he said.

Holcomb was joined at state by Chasen Brown in the 100 dash (14th of 23 with an 11.22 time), Bobby Stemm in the discus (20 of 24 with a distance of 138-8) and by the 3,200 relay team of Tommy Adair, Zach Baus, Riley Kruger and Adam Schueller (19th of 25 in a season best of 8:05.82). In that 3,200 relay race, two teams, including winner Brookfield Central (7:40.09) broke the five-year old state record.

Seniors out of that group included Brown, Adair, Baus, Kruger and Schueller. Other key seniors included Alec Richmond and Muzahir Badani. Germantown finished the year with more than 90 competitors.

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