Eighteen hurdles was the most that Ryan Heuer had to clear in his two hurdle races - the 110- and 300-meter events - during his two-year high school career for the Fairmont Cardinals track & field team.
Now competing in his specialty at the college level for the Augustana Vikings, the physical and mental hurdles have increased.
Heuer has competed in the 60-meter indoor hurdle race this season, and will run both the 110-meter high and 400-meter intermediate hurdles during the outdoor season this spring.
UP?&?OVER — Augustana College freshman Ryan Heuer (second from right) clears a hurdle during regular-season collegiate track & field action at the Bison Open on Feb. 9 on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo, N.D. Heuer went on to capture fifth place in the 60-meter event. Photo by Ryan Heuer
"In college, the high hurdles are higher than they were in high school. When I first saw them, they seemed like mountains and I had terrible form," said Heuer. "After running through them a few times, it got easier."
The Viking freshman finished his final prep season for the Cardinals with a bang, capturing the Minnesota Class A state title in the 110-high hurdles in 14.99 seconds and followed that later in the meet with a second-place finish in the intermediate hurdles in 39.51 seconds.
Despite the new obstacles at the college level, Heuer is still finding a way to reach the medal podium.
His 60-meter indoor hurdle time of 8.49 garnered him sixth place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Meet last Saturday at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
"It's really cool to have success like I have already had in college. I didn't have any expectations coming into doing track," said Heuer. "If you don't have expectations going in, you can't be disappointed."
Heuer's success last year also garnered him a nomination for the 2012 High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year by USA Track and Field Minnesota. In order to qualify, an athlete must have earned at least a pair of top-two finishes in his career at the state meet.
"It's really an honor and exciting to even been nominated for an award like that," said Heuer. "I don't expect to win it, because there are plenty of athletes that won more than I did, but still exciting."
All of that success isn't bad for a runner who started racing over hurdles just three years ago.
Now, with more experience and even better coaching, Heuer's looking to improve upon personal-best times and set new standards for the Vikings.
"I'm pretty nervous about moving up to the 400 hurdles. It's been called the man killer. At the same time it will be an exciting challenge to try something new," said Heuer.
The extra 100 meters will create two more hurdles for Heuer to face, bringing his total to 20 per meet, but he is willing to work to overcome them.
"The coaches have me working on my starts. They thought there was something awkward about it, so I'm trying to work on their suggestions and adjust to that," said Heuer. "The workouts before the season started were really hard and intense, but now that we're in season, they are much lighter and they try to keep us in shape between meets every weekend."
Heuer has finished in the top five in six of Augustana's 12 meets so far this season, with his sixth-place finish at conference his first outside of the top five.
With all of his success, it is easy for Heuer to think about how close he came to being a typical student on the University of Minnesota campus in the Twin Cities last fall.
"I got all the way to orientation. I thought that was where I wanted to be. And it just hit me how large the campus was and it didn't feel right," said Heuer. "It was really hectic for the last month before I left for Augustana, changing the plans. As soon as I got here though I knew I had made the right choice. It just fit."