About a year ago Grant Conway was at probably his lowest point as a high school athlete. In 2018 the St. James two-sport all-stater was “The Man” in the 110-meter hurdles. He had the fastest time in the state and was supposed to go on to claim the 110 hurdle crown in the form of a state championship medal.
Instead, thanks to a fall on a wet track at sectionals he didn’t even get to the state championships in the 110 hurdles, thus beginning a year-long search for redemption. A year later and that redemption finally is fulfilled, as Conway is now celebrating his highest point as a high school athlete. And he’s doing it with that state championship medal around his neck.
On May 25, the Class 3 Championships were moved from Jefferson City to Mizzou’s Walton Track/Soccer Stadium in Columbia due to the damage sustained at the regular state track venue at Jefferson City High School. That divided Classes 3, 4 and 5 into three different locations and squeezed the state meets from the regular two-day format into a Saturday-only format.
Those changes made it a battle of attrition for Conway, as with the rescheduling of events he was forced to run his preliminary races in the 110-meter hurdles, 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash in less than a 30-minute span under muggy, humid conditions. The final run of that trilogy got the best of him, as Conway failed by one placement to qualify for the 200-meter final.
In his fourth event, the 300-meter hurdles, the prelims were cut out altogether and a two-heat final was held to determine the eight all-state spots.
Under those unique circumstances, Conway still managed to wipe out last year’s disappointment by blazing to the 110-hurdle championship in a time of :13.65 in the finals—more than a second better than the runner-up.
It was easily the state’s best 110-hurdle performance this season, as no one else broke 14 seconds in any of the Class 1-5 state meets.
“In the 110 I was just thanking God for letting me make it to the finish line safe,” Conway said. “I was super excited to come out with a win in my senior year.”
Conway was hoping to set the official state record in the 110-meter hurdles. He ran a blistering time of :13.46 at sectionals the previous week, which was the nation’s best time—all-conditions—recorded by a prep runner so far in 2019. However, the Missouri state record must be set at the state meet. The Missouri’s state and Class 3 record in the 110 hurdles is :13.56, and Conway’s :13.65 was a little short of that.
The 110-hurdle final was Conway’s fourth pressure-packed race in less than two hours at the state championships.
“That may have affected me a little,” Conway said. “But there were little things I could have done better at the finish. And my start could have been a tad better. That’s stuff I could have done better.”
In a leaner at the finish line just a few minutes after the 110-hurdle victory, Conway fell short of a second state title in a 100-meter dash final thriller, as Trinity Catholic’s Kemeric Winston bested Conway by the narrowest of margins, :10.71 to :10.77. It was Winston’s second-straight Class 3 100-meter state title.
And after a couple of hours to rest, Conway completed his day by getting his third different colored all-state medal, taking third place in the 300-meter hurdle finals at :39.40. All of the top-3 times in the 300-hurdle finals came in the second heat. It was the first 300-hurdle race that Conway did not win this spring.
“I thought that was great,” Conway said of his second-place finish in the 100. “I felt I had a great start and I thought I ran pretty much a perfect race. (Winston) just had more kick at the end. But to get a first-place and a second-place within 20 minutes…I think that’s quite an accomplishment.
“(The 300-hurdle race) was a little disappointing. I thought I could come out in first, or definitely second. But after racing (five) times before I’m just glad to be in the top three.”
In his failed attempt to get to the 200-meter podium for a second straight year, Conway said he simply didn’t have enough left in the tank.
“After the 110 hurdle and 100-meter prelims, I was just smoked,” he said. “I just didn’t have enough in me. But of the four events (the 200) is probably my least favorite.”
It’s the second consecutive year that Conway has won three all-state medals. In 2018 he took second in the 300 hurdles, and third in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. But now he’s satisfied that he has his state title.
There was also a bit of satisfaction at winning it on the track of his major home-state university. Despite being nearly in its backyard and the fact that Conway’s hurdle times handily beats the times of current MU Tiger hurdlers, Mizzou didn’t go out of its way to recruit him.
He, instead, will be an Iowa Hawkeye next school year, competing in the Big 10 Conference instead of wearing black and gold in the Southeastern Conference.
“It kind of did, a little,” Conway said with a sly grin when asked if getting the state 110 hurdle title at Mizzou felt special. “They recruited me a little; nothing hard-core. But they really weren’t high on my list.
“The last time I ran here was in the eighth-grade, and I do like the track. It’s a faster track. But in all honesty, Mizzou is not really a great hurdling school.”
Not winning multi state championships gives Conway more respect for what his former STJ Tiger teammate Parker Fane did a few years ago.
In both 2015 and 2016 Fane captured dual Missouri Class 3 girls’ state championships, winning the 800-meter and 1,600-meter titles both years.
“Looking at it now, I don’t know how she did it,” Conway said. “It’s really a hard thing to do. It just goes to show what a great runner she is.”
Conway will stay busy with track next month, competing in the Great Southwest Classic at New Mexico June 7-8 and in the USATF U-20 Championships at Miramar, Florida June 22.
“Then in July I’ll just chill out before reporting to Iowa in August,” he said.
But his career as a St. James High School Tiger is now a wrap.
“That hasn’t hit me yet,” Conway said. “It’s been a great four years.”
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