DURHAM — Circumstance gave Billy Powers home-track advantage at the 73rd New England Interscholastic Track & Field Championship Meet.
Athletic gifts and a ton of practice made him a two-time champion.
Winnacunnet High School’s Powers completed the New England sweep in the hurdles events on Saturday at the University of New Hampshire — he took first place in the 110-meters in 14.25 seconds, and bested the field in the 300 in 38.67 seconds.
“This was something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time,” said Powers, who missed the top spot in the 300 by 0.05 seconds at last year’s event in Norwell, Mass. “I was really close last year. I just missed it. I was just going out today, trying to run for time, but there was a really bad headwind so I was just trying to grit it out and finish strong.”
Powers missed his state-record time in the 110, set at last weekend’s Meet of Champions in Merrimack, by 0.32 seconds.
“It was great day for Billy,” Winnacunnet coach Kara Seager said. “Unless you are a person who follows track, not many people understand how rare it is for an athlete to do both the sprint hurdles and the mid-distance hurdles; it’s usually one or the other. It’s unusual for one to win both. I am sure if you look back in the history not many kids in New England have accomplished that. It speaks very highly of his athletic talent and perseverance. He really is a gifted athlete that not only Winnacunnet will see in a long time, but New Hampshire will see for a very long time.”
Finishing third in the 300 hurdles was Zach Westman of York (Maine) High School in 39.22 seconds.
“This was my last high school race,” Westman said. “I just left whatever I had in the tank out on the track. Being able to compete with kids like Billy Powers and seeing some of the times they post and knowing I can group myself in with those guys is pretty incredible. I’ve always looked at their results and been in awe of them; it’s just really, really special to be able to compete alongside them.”
Powers said running so close to home helped.
“I was able to get here for practice this week,” Powers said. “It was really good to get a feel for the track. But when I came down to it, it was another meet.”
Powers will compete in both the 110-meter hurdles and 400 at Saturday’s New Balance National Outdoors championship in Greensboro, N.C.
It will be the third straight year Powers will compete in this meet.
“He should, hopefully, be in the top 10 in the 110,” Seager said. “We’ll see. It’s his last event doing the 110 hurdles at that low height for him because next year it goes up 3 inches. So, he’s really motivated to go out with a bang.”
The qualifying round for the 110-meter hurdles on Saturday starts at 11:30 a.m., and Powers is scheduled to compete in the seventh-and-final heat. The top eight times, according to Seager, advance to Saturday’s championship race scheduled for 7:20 p.m.
“(Qualifying for championship race) is definitely his goal,” Seager said. “If he has a perfect race, yes, he’ll do it. It’s just a question if can get a perfect race. There are a lot of variables in the hurdles; it’s a very challenging event. His goal is to be there in that championship.”
The event can be watched online at www.nationalscholastic.org.