MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. - Connetquot's John Stallworth knew that if he could get over the first hurdle clearly, it would be smooth sailing. It's always the first obstacle that causes the most worry.
"When I get out fast, I stutter and mess up the first hurdle," Stallworth said.
He got over that first one without an issue.
"When I cleared the first hurdle, it felt amazing," he said. "I knew it was my best start ever."
Once that obstacle was cleared, another one entered his mind -- breaking 14 seconds. He did that as well to win the New York State 110-meter hurdles championship in 13.96 seconds Saturday at Middletown High School.
"I was told that the last time someone broke it in New York was in 1987," Stallworth said. "That was one thing I wanted to do."
Stallworth also got his history straight. The state record in New York is 13.46 set by Centereach's Joe Galeano in 1987. The 13.96 Stallworth turned in was a personal best for the senior.
Early in the season, Stallworth was having trouble clearing the first hurdle. To correct the problem, he opened up his stride.
"It helped me speed up my lead leg," he said. "That was a big problem. My lead leg was really slow. We did a lot of shortened hurdle and two-step drills. You just have to try and keep up with the hurdles, otherwise you're going to fall on your face."
The worst part of hitting the hurdle, according to Stallworth, is the balance problem it causes.
"That messes up my steps for the next hurdle," he said. "That slows me down."
Although the opening jump was a huge accomplishment, Stallworth still had to finish the race.
"Midway through the race, I saw Ticonderoga's Jay Hebert start to pick up a little bit," Stallworth said. "I was still trying not to hit a hurdle. I kept my focus and ran my race."
The state championship was Stallworth's first.
"It still hasn't really hit me yet."
The first hurdle may be the toughest to clear but for Stallworth, it's the first state championship that tastes the sweetest.