In a technical sense, hurdling combines an athlete’s speed and jumping ability into a single race.
Ask Reservoir track coach Phil Rogers, however, and he will tell you there’s a third trait just as important as the others.
“You have to be fearless,” Rogers said. “You can’t be afraid of the hurdle. It’s not if you’re going to go down, it’s when. As a hurdler, you can’t be afraid to attack. And if you hit the ground, get up.”
Embracing that fearless mentality is one of the reasons why, Rogers said, the Gators have the best group of girls hurdlers in Howard County. Reservoir dominated the 55-meter hurdles — the only hurdling event during indoor track season — at the Howard County championships in January.
Adaobi Tabugbo led the way with a first-place finish in 8.24 seconds, while Kimayah Faye (8.83) and Kat Parris (8.84) were right behind her in second and third, respectively.
“We’ve gotten lucky to have these three amazing girls here,” Rogers said. “You can coach hurdle form, but if you have speed and aggressiveness, you can work on the other things.”
Tabugbo’s personal record of 8.13 seconds, which she achieved at the Hispanic Games in New York on Jan. 4, is the second-fastest 55-meter hurdle time in county history. The fastest was posted by Hammond’s Kisha Jett, who ran a 7.90-second time in 1994.
“Adaobi is just a special kid,” Rogers said. “She’s one of the greatest to ever come through this county. She’s easily the best we’ve ever had.”
Tabugbo, a senior, also finished first as a member of the Gators’ 4x200-meter relay team and placed second in the 55-meter dash at this winter’s county meet.
Last outdoor season, Tabugbo won the 100-meter hurdles at the 3A state meet and won silver in the 300 hurdles. Her 100 hurdles PR is 14.15 seconds, while her 300 hurdles personal best is 44.04 seconds. She won the 55 hurdles at the state meet last season by six-hundredths of a second.
“Hurdling is risky for a lot of people, but when you get into it, it’s exhilarating,” Tabugbo said. “When I first started hurdling, it felt like I was flying. We all encourage each other, and we’re all a family here.”
While Tabugbo is the silent leader of the Gators hurdlers, Rogers said it’s Faye, another senior, who is the outspoken leader.
Faye, who has improved her time by three-tenths of a second this season, is also the best triple jumper in the county. She won the county championship with a hop, skip and jump of 35 feet, 3 inches — more than two feet better than any other jumper.
“Kimayah would be the natural leader,” Rogers said. “She’s an excellent leader. She’s diligent with getting the hurdles in with the reps and the recovery.”
The person running next to Faye in the hurdles is Parris, a junior whose first sport is soccer. The 2019 Howard County girls soccer Player of the Year, Parris has PR’d in the 55 dash, 55 hurdles and 300 this season. Her 55-meter hurdles personal best time is 8.79 seconds.
“Kat is really athletic, and she’s mean — and I say that in a good way,” Rogers said. “Adaobi and Kimayah rarely hit hurdles, but Kat isn’t afraid to take out a hurdle, and her trail-leg knee can attest to that."
While Reservoir’s girls hurdlers are standing out, the Gators have two talented boys hurdlers, too. Junior Bryant Langham qualified for the state meet last season but is injured right now and can’t compete during indoor season. Then there’s junior Okechukwu Tabugbo — Adaobi’s younger brother — who finished fourth at counties with a PR time of 8.06 seconds.
“With (Okechukwu) and Bryant on the boys side, those are two tall guys with times in the low 8s,” Rogers said. “They’ve gotten better and better in the last few years.”
Okechukwu Tabugbo said he and his sister are competitive and that his development as a hurdler can be attributed to Adaobi for teaching him to better his form.
“I used to see her hurdle, and I didn’t think I could do it,” Okechukwu Tabugbo said. “Then I started hurdling, and I asked her for pointers on how to improve on my form. She’s helped me for sure."
Adaobi Tabugbo, meanwhile, said growing up with five brothers pushed her to “prove” herself. Faye recognizes Adaobi Tabugbo’s intense work ethic in practice and said watching her train and compete is “a whole bunch of motivation.” Parris said it’s a “privilege” to practice and train alongside Tabugbo.
“She’s one of the top hurdlers in the state. She pushes me as a runner. Practicing with her makes me better,” Parris said. “Our bond as teammates is great. No matter what goes down in those races we’re always supporting each other.”
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The hurdlers competed in the 3A East regional Tuesday at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, and they achieved their goal to sweep the top three spots and qualify for the state meet later this month. is for all three girls to place in the top four and qualify for the state meet.