Grace Stark Clears Massive Personal Hurdle In Earning Gold

Video: MHSAA Division I LP 100mH Final -- You Can Find All DI LP Race Videos Here

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On the line, Grace Stark probably had quite a few numbers in her head. 

None of them were close to what the White Lake Lakeland (MI) senior was capable of, what she had proven before. 

14.11, 14.58, 16.50

But those were the only times the University of Florida signee had run this season in the 100 meter hurdles, just a few months removed from a major hamstring tear -- her right leg, the lead leg -- that kept her out of the entire indoor season and much of the outdoor campaign. 

She had only been back about a month. And here she was, seconds away from her most important race of the season at the MHSAA Division I Lower Peninsula State Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Kentwood. She didn't even get a chance to talk to her coach about the plan. 

Could she win her second straight title? Would she find that moment of greatness? 

"I just really wanted it," Stark said. 

Previous to this year, in October, she had won a gold medal at the Youth Olympics in the 100mH, clocking a wind-aided career best time of 12.83 (+2.8) seconds over 30-inch hurdles while sporting USA's colors in Argentina. 

Previous to that, she had won a New Balance Nationals title as a junior over the 33-inch hurdles, had won her first state title in Michigan, had run a career best of 13.16 seconds over her season. She was on a path toward becoming one of the best hurdlers in high school history. 

Then in January, on a weekend that was supposed to act as her big opening to the indoor season, Stark heard "a pop" during a 60mH race. She didn't even finish the race.  

"Indoor was my favorite season," Stark said. "Missing that was heartbreaking." 

Cue the rehabilitation, the long weeks of therapy. Stark had to endure what many have done before. Her eyes, however, were always on state. 

Months later -- after deciding to focus on no even other than the 100mH -- none of that mattered. That disappointment wasn't in her head. Maybe she wasn't even thinking about Oak Park senior Aasia Laurencin, who lined up to her right and had the state lead up until that point, a very fast 13.91 seconds. 

All Stark wanted was her second straight title in the 100mH, to break 14 seconds, and to prove she could beat this injury and get back on that podium. 

"I just really wanted to come back and win it," she said. "A lot of it was heart and desire to get back on that stage." 

The gun went off. 

Stark blasted off like a rocket, perfectly, hurdle over hurdle. She roasted Lane 5, and by the time she was through the eighth hurdle she could see daylight.

Without even seeing the clock, she let out a roar, a massive fist bump. 

13.43 seconds. Sixth best in the nation, in only her fifth race of 2019, over three competitions. 

That moment of greatness? Found it. 

"Yes," she said. "I'm happy."

Coda: While Stark finished her season on a high note, the White Lake Lakeland senior is going to play it safe this summer. She said she has one more meet left on her calendar, the Midwest Meet of Champions, before she closes off her high school career. She has decided to leave opportunities for other postseason meets on the table in favor of readying for Gainesville, where Stark will enter as one of Florida's top young athletes.