CHATHAM, NJ - Put an obstacle in front of Simone Kirton and she simply runs through it.
"When I hurdle, I don't think about jumping over something. I just think to run," Kirton said. "Some girls get hung up on the fact that there is an obstacle to get over. I've never run up to a hurdle and thought I couldn't get over it."
So far, the Chatham High senior has been smoothly clearing the physical and mental hurdles she faces in her final winter indoor track season. The 17-year-old is off to a pretty good start in 2017 since she owns the fastest time in the state thus far of 8.35 in the 55-meter hurdles, according to the rankings posted on NJ.Milesplit.com,
Simone Kirton is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
The state ranking is pretty good, but Kirton knows she can do better - because she has. Last season, she set a personal record of 8.33 and has her sights on lowering that PR to 8.2s or 8.1. That's why she spends an additional three days a week working on her form with trainer David Lado of High Intensity Track.
"I have been working on my start all summer," Kirton said. "I have training sessions where I spend an hour and a half working on my starts. Acceleration is the main thing I'm working on now. If I can accelerate between the hurdles and keep my form, it will be like I'm just sprinting."
Kirton must have been born to be a hurdler because she's never experienced any of the fears associated with the event. She remembers when she first started hurdling as a 7th grader living in Pembroke, Fla.
"When I first started hurdling, I really liked the feeling of flying," Kirton said. "I was already fast and never had the fear of falling. Probably the mental aspect of it is the hardest part for anyone; not being afraid to fail or fall. I put in the dedication because it really does take a lot of time to get a technique down and put it all together."
Kirton takes three steps between each hurdle and always leads with her right leg. It's a technique that helped her finish third in the outdoor NJSIAA Meet of Champions last spring. Her best time in the 100-meter high hurdles is 14.44.
Kirton, who has been working as a tutor at Kumon in Summit since she moved to Chatham as an 8th grader, also enjoys teaching track, and the idea of being a mentor to her teammates.
"She has this cool and collected aura she gives off," Chatham girls track coach Stephanie Frost said, "and she sets a good example for the younger hurdlers. She really helps the other girls with their form and is a very good team leader that way. She shows them ways they can improve drills and the things they do."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.