When talking 5A boys' hurdles, the conversation begins and ends with the Doherty Spartans.
Coming into CSML Championships, Tyler Zito was the 5A leader in the 110-meter hurdles and was third in the 300 hurdles while teammate and fellow senior Ryne Chavez held the best mark in the 300 hurdles and was second in the 110 hurdles.
They didn't disappoint Thursday at Garry Berry Stadium. Zito won the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.06 seconds. His time was 0.16 better than Pine Creek's Aaron Paden, who took second.
Chavez, meanwhile, won the 400-meter dash before coming back on very short rest to win the 300 hurdles in 38.04, just 0.13 seconds off his class-best mark.
That kind of success for one program in a specific discipline starts with a good coach. Doherty has exactly that in Robert Duensing, who was a hurdler himself.
“That's all I coach; that's my passion,” said Duensing, who is also the Spartans' head track coach. “It's been my passion since I ran them in high school.”
Duensing said the secret for being a successful hurdling coach is finding the right kids to teach.
“It starts with a dedicated kid,” he said. “One who's willing to put in the time and sacrifice.”
He found not just one, but two. Zito's best prior to this season was in the 18-second range.
“I've progressed quite a bit since last year,” Zito said. “I worked with the coaches a lot this summer. They helped me get my technique down. We got a specific hurdling coach this time and my times just started dropping.”
That drop was on display a week ago at the Doherty Spartan Invitational when he ran his 14.66, the best mark in 5A this season. How he achieved that is right out of Duensing's 'dedicated kid' mold.
“I live and breathe track,” Zito said. “I train day and night. If I'm not in the gym, I'm on the track or getting my schoolwork done.”
Chavez, meanwhile, started hurdling as a sophomore and took eighth in state that year, running a 39.91 in the 300 hurdles.
“It was quite an eye-opening,” he said.
Chavez has posted a class-best 37.91 this season. He credits Duensing for helping become one of the elite hurdlers in the state.
“Without his training I wouldn't have gotten to where I'm at right now,” Chavez said. “He's a big inspiration and he's always supporting every one of us in every way.”
That inspiration stems from a simple philosophy.
“Have a plan, have a lot of fun and make sure you're dedicating your time,” Duensing said. “That's all it takes.
“I have a passion for it and they do, too. When those two mix it can be a dangerous thing.”