BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer With four straight 400 titles BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer GENE BOYARS/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS Columbia University’s Erison Hurtault has emerged as one of the nation’s top 400-meter runners after enjoying a stellar scholastic career at Matawan Regional High School. Erison Hurtault has managed to stay one step ahead of the competition throughout his sprinting career at Columbia University. The former Matawan High School star recently made Ivy League history when he became the first man to win an indoor league championship four consecutive years on Feb. 25. He collected his record fourth title at the New York Armory at the 60th Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in style setting, school, meet and Ivy League records with his 46.34. He did it in what has been his accustomed style indoors – from the front. “I ran a good race,” he pointed out. “I got to the cut (where runners change lanes) first. It’s the best strategy for indoors.” Throughout his dominance of the event, it hasn’t been the fast starts that have kept Hurtault ahead of the competition, but the finish. “My greatest strength is that I usually have a bit more left in the last 200,” he pointed out. Hurtault is well aware of how difficult it was to win four straight. After all, he can remember when he was a freshman intruding upon the more experienced upper classmen. It’s never easy staying on top. “To hold off the other guys, and there are a lot of good runners in the Ivy League, is special. It’s something to be proud of,” he said. Hurtault has left his imprint all over the Ivy League while setting his record. He won his championships at four different sites. He captured his first Hep title at Cornell. His sophomore year the meet was at Harvard and Hurtault broke the meet record there. Last year, Dartmouth was the venue and he turned in the eighth fasted time in the country. This year it was the Armory, not far from Columbia, and a place he has used for practice, and it produced another set of records for the Lion senior. It was the first time since 1952 that New York City hosted the Heps. Last weekend, the third time proved to be the charm for the ex-Husky as he won All-American honors for the first time in his collegiate career by finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. (top eight finishers earned All-America). The NCAA’s owed Hurtault. Last year he went to the meet with the eighth fastest time in the country and in solid position to make the All-American team. But he came down with an illness and was unable to compete. Hurtault went to Fayetteville with a goal of getting to the final, which would assure of making All-America. He did that by winning his heat in 46.54 and then, running faster in Sunday’s final to achieve his goal. Having lowered his indoor personal best (pb) during the winter, Hurtault looks forward to the outdoor season where he has a pb of 46.11 and has the chance to make history all over again at the Heps. No one has ever won four straight outdoor Hep titles and, guess who has won three straight 400 crowns? Hurtault. He’ll be looking to go a perfect eight-for-eight at the Ivy League championships in Princeton in May. With a pb of 48 seconds in high school, Hurtault has seen his time steadily lowered during his four years in Morningside Heights, N.Y. He credits it to a far more narrower focus. He ran cross country in high school as well as the 100-200-400 for the Huskies. At Columbia, he noted the focus is totally on the 400 with everything designed to make him better. As any 400 runner knows, it’s as grueling a test as any in track and field with sprinters flirting with the red zone the entire way. “You can’t be afraid,” said Hurtault. “You can’t let it (pain) control you.” Don’t expect the outdoor season (which for Columbia begins March 24 in West Point, N.Y. with the Dick Shea Invitational) to be the end of the road for Hurtault. The economics major isn’t looking to hang his track spikes up any time soon. “I want to keep it going a little big longer,” he said. The Olympics are in 2008 and Hurtault’s goal is to make the US Olympic Trials. By winning All-American honors last weekend, he certainly has established himself as one of the country’s up-and-coming 400 sprinters.
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