With a foot of snow still left on the track when the week started, state track champion Darius Luff spent part of his spring break negotiating powder and moguls in Keystone, Colorado, instead of a flight of hurdles back home.
“It’s (skiing) too much fun, it was worth the risk (of injury),” said the Lincoln High senior and Nebraska recruit who owns the state’s fastest electronic high school time ever run in the 110-meter high hurdles (:13.84).
By the time he got back to Lincoln on Wednesday, the snow was gone. Luff now has his full attention focused on defending his 110 highs and 300 intermediate hurdle titles. He once again will assume the lead role in propelling the Links to another possible Class A boys team championship after they edged Lincoln Southwest by a 76-75.5 margin for the 2018 crown.
Luff spent the winter training three days a week at Nebraska’s hurdler camps indoors at the Devaney Sports Center. He’s been a regular at Lincoln High’s weight room since football season ended in November.
“I’m ready to go,” he said.
Last summer, Luff appeared ready to put track in the rear-view mirror. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound all-state defensive back committed to play football at North Dakota in July, then helped the Links reach the Class A football playoffs for the third straight season.
For the first time since he was 6, Luff did not run summer track.
That time away from the hurdles and an up-and-down football season changed his mind by November.
“I missed track, and I just didn’t feel the love of the game I needed to play football for four more years,” Luff said.
In a span of two weeks in November, Luff decommitted from North Dakota football, committed to Indiana for track, then decommitted again before finally sticking with the Huskers.
“When I started weighing all the factors, it just made sense to stay home,” Luff said.
Luff has set some high goals in terms of times this season. He wants to break :13.5 electronically in the 110 highs. The top mark on the state’s all-time charts is a :13.4 by Creighton Prep’s Randy Brooks in 1977, a hand-held time performed in the 120-yard highs.
He wants the state record in the 300 intermediates as well, which is a :37.29 by Bishop Neumann’s Aaron Brandt in 2006. Luff’s personal best in the 300s is a :38.50 he ran last year. His :13.84 in the 110s came in the preliminaries at state a year ago.
“Unless he gets injured, he’ll hit those times,” Lincoln High hurdle coach Alex Czeranko said. “I quit doubting him after his freshman year.”
The Links could potentially score three hurdlers at state this season. Nebraska football walk-on prospect Cam Kleinschmidt took third in the Class C 110s and fourth in the 300s last year as a junior at Sutton. Lincoln High junior Isaiah Winston was sixth in the Class A 110s last spring.
“It’s good having a group of guys pushing and encouraging each other every day in practice,” Luff said.
Lincoln High track coach Bob White expects middle distance senior LeeAaron Berks to take another step forward this season after taking second at state last year in the 400 and third in the 800. White has senior CJ Jones filling the role Zion Perry did a year ago in the 100 and 200.
“LeeAaron did a nice job in the offseason getting himself ready in the weight room,” White said. “We had workouts Monday and Wednesday indoors at Doane and he looked good pushing through those.
“CJ has really progressed, and he’ll make a mark for himself in the open 100 and both relays,” the coach added.