From the Bench: With Focus on Track, Indians Junior Oldaker Finishes 13th in Nation in 110 High Hurdles

By Jeff Toquinto on August 05, 2018 from Sports Blog via

When Bridgeport High School’s Braeden Oldaker crossed the finish line in the 110 meter hurdle event in the Class AA state track and field meet at Laidley Field he probably felt pretty good about himself. And why shouldn’t he.
After all, Oldaker had managed to finish in second place for the soon-to-be state champion Indians. Even better, he managed to post a personal best time of 15.01 seconds. Best of all, he did it as a sophomore.
That, for many, would be time to kick back and relax. For those thinking Oldaker was about to rest on his laurels, they were mistaken. Late last month, he showed everyone his goals aren’t just to finish as the runner-up in the 110 at the state meet or to quit running when his senior year rolls around in 2020.
Braeden Oldaker has some goals. He wants to help BHS win more state titles. He wants to win one of his own in either the 110 or 300 meter hurdles or as part of the shuttle hurdles or 4x100 meter relay teams. And for good measure, he wants to compete in college.
That led Oldaker on a journey that began earlier this year when his grandfather told him about the USA Track & Field (USATF) events that could make him reach some of those goals. Once he found out, he worked with his mother and his father to see how to get involved and that began a three-stage journey the eventually saw him end up in the USATF National Junior Olympics.
The first step of the journey was in Charleston and Oldaker said it was easy. He was the only entrant in his field, which put him to the next stage – the regionals – in Michigan. There, he headed to the city of Olivet and Olivet College where the competition went from zero to hard core immediately.
“I had to finish in the top five and there were a lot of people there and I was able to do well enough to advance,” said Oldaker, who was competing in the 15-16-year-old division.
Oldaker did just that on July 26. That set the stage for advancing to the national competition. The event was held at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. Immediately, Oldaker knew he had his work cut out for him.
“I knew I would be competing against guys that had ran in the mid-14s and 15s, but I honestly didn’t think the field was going to be that good. It was a bit overwhelming,” said Oldaker.
If he was overwhelmed, he certainly had a funny way of showing it. To advance to the semifinals, Oldaker had to qualify in the preliminary round. What that meant was that he had to have one of the top 24 times of the day.
“I really didn’t know what to expect because there were a lot of guys I was against that ran in the mid-14s. I hurt myself because I didn’t give myself enough time to stretch,” said Oldaker.
His time in the preliminary event was 15.48 seconds. Not his personal best, but it was enough to advance.
“I barely made it. I knew if I wanted to get to the finals I would have to take more time stretching and run my best race ever,” said Oldaker.
The soon-to-be-junior did all of those things. He showed up early. He stretched and went out and matched his personal best time of 15.01 seconds in the semifinals, shaving nearly a half a second off his preliminary time.
“My run felt good. I started out bad, which upset me,” said Oldaker. “When I look at the time and how I started, I know I could have done a little bit better.”
As it turned out, Oldaker finished 13th in his division. Only the top eight advanced to the finals, which were held a week ago from today.
“He finished thirteenth in the entire country. That’s not too shabby,” said a proud BHS track Coach Jon Griffith. “We’re proud of his effort and, honestly, even had he never qualified for nationals I would have been proud of him.
“The key with Braeden is his desire to be good. He wants to work at it and wants to put the time and effort. A lot will show up the first day of track practice, run and they’re done when practice is done and when the season is done,” the coach continued. “When you’re working at it in the summer and winter months and do things like this, that’s what impresses coaches.”
Oldaker may not be back on the USATF circuit any time soon, but he’s not stopped working out. He said he’s running locally and in Marion County at places like Fairmont State University.
“I do want to run in college and haven’t talked to anyone just yet. I’m still young and I know I can better. I just need to keep working and taking advantage of events like this,” said Oldaker.
Griffith said he’s surprised there is no USATF program locally. In fact, he said considering the amount of effort given to youth sports it’s a bit mind boggling.
“You would think it would be here, but it’s not. I would get it started and run it, but I can’t do it because I’m a coach in high school and it’s against the (WVSSAC) rules,” said Griffith. “I’d really like to see someone get that started because we’ve got programming for just about everything else in Bridgeport and it could make a difference. It’s making a difference for Braeden.”
Griffith said Oldaker has a chance to be among the best – or the best – hurdle athletes ever at BHS. The individual marks are held by former standout Matt Wilson and were thought to be among the “untouchable” ones at the school. Now, that may not be the case.
Wilson posted his school best marks as a senior. His time in the 110 is 14.70, while the 300 time for Wilson is at 39.17 seconds. Oldaker, with two years to get there, has the 15.01 in the 110 and has a career-best 40.28 in the 300.
“He’ll have to be willing to put in the work to get there,” said Griffith.
As he’s recently shown, doing the work won’t be an issue. Oldaker hopes to go from 13th in the nation, to No. 1 at Bridgeport High School and in Class AA this coming year and also in his senior year. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be a matter of not working to get there.
Regardless, he’s got a chance to get to do big things. And he’s got himself and hard work to thank for it.
Editor's Note: Top two photos show Braeden Oldaker as he first clears a hurdle and then gets ready for the 4x100 meter relay. Photos are by Third photo shows Oldaker shortly after finishing 13th at the recent USATF event, while the bottom photo was taken after the Indians won the boys Class AA state title in May.

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