Hurdling the "O'Neill Way" Mike Peterson, O'Neill High School - www.CoachPeterson.net @coachpeterson - mikepeterson@oneillschools.org

I have been the hurdle coach at O'Neill High School since 1998. Since that time, we have had an athlete qualify for State in a hurdle event every year but one. We have had 2 State Runner-Ups and several placers in that time.

What I plan on sharing with you today:

  1. My philosophy on hurdling. (What works for me at OHS)
  2. Drills for success in both hurdle events.
  3. FEEL FREE TO STOP AND ASK QUESTIONS DURING THIS PRESENTATION. I want this to be really informal and hopefully we can teach each other a lot.
  4. Questions? Suggestions?

My Philosophy on Hurdling

  • My philosophy is pretty simple - identify the best athletes on our track teams and determine if they can hurdle or not! I regularly attend our grade school track meet to identify who are the potential hurdlers.
"I guess you were right, Coach Peterson! When you came up to me at the 6th grade track meet and said my daughter should be a hurdler I thought you were crazy! Now she is going to State as a freshman!"
Alex Hedlund (left) figuring out she just made it to State as a freshman.
Wyatt Liewer as a freshman and as a senior. Placed 2nd at State in 2018 in the 300 IH and 5th in the 110 HH as a senior.
Don't give up on an athlete too soon....I was not sure if Alex Thramer would ever fix his trail leg, but he did. Freshman year on the left, senior on the right. Three time State qualifier.
  • Find 100 and 200 meter sprinters who I can teach to hurdle. We often have girls who can run around 13.3 or below in the 100 or sub 64 in the 400 - which does not get you a whole lot in Class B. Our philosophy at O'Neill High School is we want our kids to find success in an event that they can hopefully compete at the State Level.
  • We work on making these kind of athletes hurdlers for us. I can tell within about two practices if an athlete can hurdle or not.
  • It is a MYTH that you can make a hurdler out of a "slow" athlete. You MUST have speed to be successful in the hurdles.
  • Treat your "Hurdle Crew" like FAMILY. If you build relationships with your athletes, they will perform better.
Crew from 2000 gave me the photo on bottom left as a gift. We have been attempting to re-create it ever since! Kids have fun doing it.

As you can see, I have not even talked about drills and skills yet. You must develop that relationship with them to have any success. I feel this is a BIG part of OUR success at OHS.

  • You have to keep things simple for high school athletes. Much of the information I find on the internet is geared towards college and/or elite athletes. None of which we ever really get in O'Neill, Nebraska.
  • If we have a young group, I dictate EXACTLY what we do in practice. If we have a more veteran crew, I have a general outline of what we will do in practice, but I allow them to personalize it some. (work on the skills, drills, etc. THEY feel they need to do.) This gives them some OWNERSHIP of their workout, and in turn, they tend to work harder.
  • We DO have FUN, but I hold them accountable. We must always be prepared for a race. We always warm up as a group and hold each other accountable for this. MY BIGGEST PET-PEEVE IS WHEN WE DO NOT WARM UP PROPERLY.
  • I tell my hurdlers I want them to warm up better than any other team out there. Take pride in it. I honestly LOVE watching other teams warm up. I learn a lot from this.
  • I treat all skill levels the same. There is always room to celebrate improvement.
  • We have had a "friendly" competition with the distance runners for over 20 years. (We're still ahead, but don't tell Coach Hilker this.)
  • I have the athletes VISUALIZE a PERFECT race the night before a meet.

Drills for success in the hurdles

Here are our EVERY DAY DRILLS:

  • Wall Drills-Trail Leg 10 times each leg (emphasize snapping leg to ground)
  • Wall Drills-Lead Leg 10 times each leg (emphasize starting with the knee bend)
  • Walking trail leg drills (5 times each side)
  • Walking lead leg drills (5 times each side)
  • Static Stretching over a hurdle (see 2017 video below)
  • Leg Swings (see 2017 video below)
  • High knee trail leg drills (5 times each side)
  • High knee lead leg drills (5 times each side)
  • High knee walk-overs (5 times each side)
  • Quick side walkovers (marching/dancing)
  • 3 step trail leg drill (5 times each leg)

Hurdle Videos Made for Demonstration

Other Skill Drills

  • Band Drills for Trail Leg and Lead Leg: We do these about once/week early in the season. GREAT for indoor work. 3 x 10 each leg (trail and lead) I bought the bands at Scheels in various tensions.


The key to hurdling is maintaining your speed and running form while going over an obstacle-not for everyone.

  • We NEVER do a full flight of hurdles in practice. It is counterproductive and not necessary. I see this all of the time with Junior High athletes thinking they need to go over 10 hurdles as many times as they can the day before a meet. If you can maintain good speed, form and technique over five hurdles, you can do the same with 10. (my wife was a sub 15 second hurdler and could NEVER three-step in practice!)
  • We do a lot of block starts to the first 5/4/3/2/2. Sometimes lowered and shortened to maintain speed and to work on three-stepping. *Simulating a meet in practice is always the problem with practicing the hurdles.
  • I know some coaches do not emphasize block starts as much as we do, but I feel it is a key to mastering the high hurdles. The more reps we have at the actual start, the less stress the athletes will feel in a meet-becomes 2nd nature.
  • Much of our conditioning involves SPRINTING. To BE FAST, you need to TRAIN FAST! We do a lot of 100s, 150s, 200s and 300s at race speed at various reps.
  • Getting young kids to ATTACK the first hurdle is the key to future success.
  • I time and film the high hurdlers (Hudl) often to show them the speed needed to obtain the desired time. Here is a great site to calculate touchdown times also. Excel file download link. (You can also use the chart to see at what point of the race the athletes are having trouble.)
Touchdown Time Chart
  • One Step Drill. We do this probably once/week. Does a great job of getting a lot of form work done in a short amount of time. Great drill for indoors also with a limited amount of space.
  • Rhythm 3 Step Drill: We do this every couple of weeks to work on quick 3 STEP rhythm and footwork. Hurdle heights (inches): 27/27/30/30/33/33/33/30/30/27/27. Hurdle spacing (feet): 10/12/14/16/18/20/22/22/22/22.

Rhythm Drill: We do this every couple of weeks to work on quick 1 STEP lead and trail leg rhythm and footwork. Hurdle heights (inches): 27/27/30/30/33/33. Hurdle spacing (feet): 10/11/12/12/12.

  • We do this drill I call "Speed Hurdles" or 7 Steppers. Take out every other hurdle doing 1-3-5 both directions x 3. Use for a conditioner.

I follow a guy on YouTube and Instagram, Terry Reese, who was a world-class hurdler (13.23 in 110 HH) and now helps coach various athletes in Raleigh, North Carolina. @teereesejr on Instagram and "Tee Reese" on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/user/teereesejr


  • My philosophy in the 300 hurdles is to NOT worry about counting steps, but to ATTACK each hurdle. We drill this often and reinforce that philosophy.
  • I tried counting steps when I first started coaching, but it seemed to really mess with my athletes' heads! With the various directions and velocity of the wind we have in Nebraska, I find that it is much better to focus on ATTACKING each hurdle rather than worry about steps. If we are attacking the hurdles the way we should be, the steps will take care of themselves. *I do count their steps when watching video if they are having problems with a certain part of their race.
  • We do a LOT of starts to the first 4/3/2 at race speed using a pacing chart. This makes the athletes know the speed they have to attain to achieve a desired time.
  • Below is a drill we do at least once a week that we call "Random 200's". Athletes start at 200 start and then attack the 5th - 8th hurdles. 5th and 8th are on the right markings on the track, 6th and 7th are set at random spots on the track and I move them before each rep. This makes them not worry about steps, but ATTACK each hurdle.
  • Coach cue to them is, "Stride and Attack" They should sprint AT the hurdle when they are around 10 meters away.
  • For the 300 hurdles we do a lot of the "FIRST FOUR" or the "LAST FOUR" at various rep amounts.
  • We also do the "FIRST TWO-Stride the Middle-LAST TWO" and sprint to the START of the 300's. Reps depending on day of the week and where we are in the season. Focuses on two of the most important parts of the race and then some added conditioning.

sample workouts

Early Season Workout Plan
Early Season Workout Plan
Middle Season Workout Plan
Middle Season Workout Plan
Late Season Workout Plan
T25 Indoor Day Conditioning - We use this OFTEN when we can't go outside for conditioning for ALL of our athletes. They can then go do drill work with their event coaches. Reduces the wear and tear on their bodies when we have to practice indoors AND is also good for them!

historical record of what times it takes to make finals and place at state

o'neill hurdle hall of fame

  • 1999 - Ryan Cameron, 6th place in 110 HH-15.38, 4th place in 300 IH-40.07
  • 1999 - Autumn Hanson, 5th place in 100 HH-15.70
  • 2000 - Ryan Cameron, 8th place in 110 HH, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2000 - Autumn Hanson, 2nd place in 100 HH-15.60, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2001 - Steve Gildersleeve, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2001 - Beth Kitchens, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2002 - Steve Gildersleeve, Qualifier in 110 HH and 300 IM
  • 2002 - Noah Dea, Qualifier in 110 HH and 300 IM
  • 2002 - Beth Kitchens, 7th place in 300 LH-47.75
  • 2003 - Beth Kitchens, 3rd place in 300 LH-46.938
  • 2005 - Kelsey Kumm, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2006 - Candace Fowler, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2007 - Kelsey Mundhenke, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2007 - Candace Fowler, 8th place in 100 HH-15.89
  • 2008 - Shelby Gutshall, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2009 - Kelsey Mundhenke, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2009 - Alex Hedlund, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2010 - Tate Laursen, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2010 - Kelsey Mundhenke, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2011 - Brandi Walters, 6th in 100 HH-15.967, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2011 - Alex Hedlund, Qualifier in 100 HH, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2012 - Tate Laursen, 5th in 300 IH-40.69
  • 2012 - Connor Peterson, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2012 - Brandi Walters, Qualifier in 100 HH, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2012 - Alex Hedlund, Qualifier in 100 HH, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2013 - Tate Laursen, 3rd in 300 IH-40.55
  • 2013 - Brandi Walters, Qualifier in 100 HH, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2014 - Kedron Koehler, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2015 - Kedron Koehler, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2015 - Aurora Gutshall, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2016 - Alex Thramer, Qualifier in 110 HH, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2016 - Samantha Eichelberger, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2017 - Alex Thramer, Qualifier in 110 HH, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2017 - Wyatt Liewer, Qualifier in 110 HH, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2017 - Aurora Gutshall, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2017 - Samantha Eichelberger, Qualifier in 300 LH
  • 2018 - Alex Thramer, Qualifier in 110 HH, Qualifier in 300 IH
  • 2018 - Wyatt Liewer, 5th in 110 HH-15.36, 2nd in 300 IH-40.23
  • 2018 - Aurora Gutshall, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2018 - Blair Gutshall, Qualifier in 100 HH
  • 2018 - Samantha Eichelberger, Qualifier in 300 LH

LInks and resources

Created By
Mike Peterson


Mike Peterson

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