ALEDO — Without hesitating, Mercer County senior hurdler Payton Holmes tells you what it's like not having a track.|
"It's very difficult," Holmes said. "We've got to travel all over the place to practice so we can get some real running in."
Sometimes the travel is the worst part.
"But," Holmes said, "we put our time in, and we get our work done."
All of those challenges still cannot hold back Holmes.
Despite Mercer County not having an all-weather track, he finds a way to practice and improve in unorthodox ways. One requires trips to Sherrard or Monmouth so the Golden Eagles can practice on an all-weather track. Another has Holmes working in a school hallway on a makeshift track.
"It does hurt (not having an all-weather track), but we can't make our facilities an excuse for not being good," Mercer County coach Mick Louck said. "There are always ways of doing. As well as he's doing, he's proving that he's not letting a lack of facilities hold him back."
A two-time state qualifier, Holmes enters the final stretch of his high-school career hoping to earn another Class 1A state medal. Louck said he believes Holmes can earn a top-3 finish in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles next month at the state meet, possibly even vying for a state championship.
So far, the numbers show it can happen. Holmes recently posted season-best times in the 110s and 300s, running 14.75 and 40.6 seconds, respectively, last Saturday at the Rockridge Invitational. Four days later, he posted 15.04- and 40.77-second performances during the Golden Eagle Invitational.
The recent results are well under the state-qualifying standard.
"I'm very happy," Holmes said. "I was very focused coming into those races."
What helps is finally running on an all-weather track. Mercer County's track at George Pratt Memorial Field still is a cinder surface, making it difficult to place hurdles on the ground. So when Holmes reaches a meet, it's one of the few times he can run on the all-weather surface.
Whenever the Golden Eagles remain in Aledo to practice, he sometimes must going into the school and practice in a hallway. A tarp is rolled out and three hurdles are placed to create a 40-meter straightaway.
Although it's not an ideal practice situation, the time is not wasted.
"We get what we need to get done," Holmes said. "It's not as much as we'd like to do."
Some work is better than no work.
"A lot of schools are in the same situation," Holmes said. "We never let that affect us."
"He's put in the time," Louck said. "His ability level is high. There's no doubt. ... He does everything he can to get better."
Within the last few weeks, Holmes works in the shadows of a new track. Mercer County recently started a renovation project that includes a new eight-lane, all-weather track at George Pratt Memorial Field. The groundwork shows the outline of the new track. Completion is expected by late August.
By that time, Holmes will be a freshman in college.
"The guys coming up are very fortunate," Holmes said.
Then again, Holmes will have an all-weather track to use starting in the fall.
"It," Holmes said, "is going to be a blessing."
Track this week
Moss Relays (coed)When: Today
Where: Wethersfield Memorial Stadium, Kewanee
Times: 4:15 p.m. (field events) and 5:15 p.m. (running events)
Teams: Annawan-Wethersfield, Ridgewood, United, Galva, Princeton, Putnam County, ROWVA, Spring Valley Hall, Stark County
Tiger Relays (coed)When: Today
Where: Clifford King Field, Sherrard
Times: 4 p.m. (field events) and 6 p.m. (running events)
Teams: Alleman, Kewanee, Mercer County, Monmouth-Roseville, Orion, Rockridge, Sherrard
Geneseo Invitational (girls)
Where: Bob Reade Field, Geneseo
Times: 4:30 p.m. (field events) and 5 p.m. (running events)
Teams: Geneseo, Moline, Orion, Rockridge, United Township, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Princeton, Rockford Auburn
Monmouth-Roseville Invitational (coed)
Where: Sunny Lane Field, Monmouth
Times: 4 p.m. (field events) and 4:30 p.m. (running events)
Teams: Mercer County, Monmouth-Roseville, Sherrard, Bushnell-Prairie City-Avon, Farmington, Knoxville, Macomb, West Hancock
Brockman Relays (coed)
Where: Petersen-Breedlove Track, Kewanee
Times: 4 p.m. (field events) and 4:45 p.m. (running events)
Teams: Annawan-Wethersfield, Erie-Prophetstown, Kewanee, Riverdale, Bureau Valley, Peru St. Bede, Stark County