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LPS Track and Field Championships, 4.25

Lincoln High's Darius Luff (left) clears a hurdle on his way to winning the 300-meter hurdles ahead of Links teammate Isaiah Winston, who finished third, at the LPS track and championships at Beechner Athletic Complex in April.

Scotty Luff finally went out for track at Lincoln High as a junior, became a hurdler and qualified for the Class A state meet as a senior in 1995 when the Links were state runner-up as a team.

His son is finishing what he started and doing it in record fashion.

Darius Luff followed in his father’s footsteps and, at the same time, blazed a path into uncharted territory for any boys high school hurdler in Nebraska. Under the same coaches his father had at Lincoln High — head coach Bob White and hurdles coach Alex Czernako — Luff has run the two fastest electronic times in state history in the 110-meter high hurdles, won Class A titles the last two years and won the all-class gold in the 2018.

The younger Luff, a future Husker, has also started making in-roads in the 300 intermediates as well being the defending A state champion in that event.

“When he was little, Darius just wanted to be a sprinter, so one day I said, 'Just for me, try them (the hurdles).' I thought if he could put that speed into the hurdles, we might be into something,’” said Scotty Luff, a wide receiver coach for Lincoln High’s football team the past four seasons.

"He started to do a little practice for a couple years, then we threw him in a race at the age of 12 and he won it."

Darius quickly corrected his father. "I got second, I couldn’t get my steps right. I remember that race really well," he said.

It's not difficult to recall the races Darius has lost because there haven’t been very many. No doubt he used that first race as motivation, just like he’s done with the 110 hurdle finals at state his freshman year in 2016.

Luff lost that race by six-thousandths of a second to Millard West senior Ian Brown (:14.782 to :14.788), otherwise he could be going for his fourth straight 110 state title this weekend at Omaha Burke Stadium.

“Nothing you can do about it now,” Darius said on Tuesday.

It’s a little more difficult for his father to let it go, however.

"I might be biased, I still think he won,” Scotty said smiling. “I’ve got a picture in my phone right now.”

Photo finishes in Luff’s races this weekend seem very unlikely. His best hand time of :13.6 (second on the state’s all-time charts) earlier this season is well ahead of the next time on the Class A charts — a :14.4 by Lyndon Harrison of Omaha Burke.

The :13.6 came at the Papillion-La Vista South Invitational in mid-April on a cold, windy day after six aborted starts to his race because of problems with the starters pistol being in sync with the timing system.

Luff reeled off a :13.82 at districts last Friday at Omaha Westside, the best electronic time in state history, 0.02 of a second faster the :13.84 he ran at state a year ago in the preliminaries.

His lead over the competition is just as significant in the 300s. Luff’s state-leading :38.20 at districts last week is almost a second faster than the second-best Class A clocking this season of :39.12 by Nicholas Stoeckle of Columbus.

He needs to run faster than :37.94 at state to crack the 300s all-time charts.

“My goal this season is to break the state record in the 300s,” Luff said, referring to the :37.29 that Bishop Neumann’s Aaron Brandt ran in 2006.

“With the 400 training in practice and better technique, my times are coming down,” he added. “I almost fell over on (hurdle number) five at Westside, without that I might’ve been there last week.”

With warm weather and the adrenaline of the state meet, he sees potential for his 110 time to fall as well.

“My district (110) race wasn’t as clean over the hurdles as I could be or want to be,” Luff said. “I can still come off that last hurdle better and be a little faster to the finish.”

Luff has more than lived up to the expectations White and Czernako had for him coming into high school. Scotty Luff sought out Czernako for advice when his son was younger, and the long-time hurdle coach (now in his 36th season at Lincoln High) got a chance to do some in-depth work with Darius in the summer between his eighth and ninth grade years.

“When Darius was 13, I told Bob (White), 'He’s going to be pretty good,'" Czernako said.

Luff led Lincoln High to its first Class A boys track title since 1960 last season, and in the process, giving White his first state title in his 37 seasons at the helm.

With the hurdle crew of Luff and fellow seniors Cam Kleinschmidt and Isaiah Winston, middle distance senior Leeaaron Berks and triple jumper Passmore Mudundulu leading the way, the Links are in the hunt again.

“Winning your single event, it’s fun, it’s the goal you have at the end of the season,” Luff said. “But to be able to celebrate at the end with your whole team after you’ve worked all season with them, it feels a lot better.

“It’s going to be close this weekend, but I think we can do it again,” he added.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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