For two days in April, Chadron Middle School eighth grader Xander Provance held the best time in the nation in the 33-inch 100-meter hurdles, running the race in 14.29 seconds during his first meet of the season at the Bluffs Middle School Invite, in Scottsbluff, April 27.
Saturday, at the Middle School Western Conference Meet in Alliance, Provance set another nation’s best mark, this time in the 200 hurdles where he finished in 27.52 seconds.
It was the first time he’d ever run the event.
Despite his success, Provance said it hasn’t always been that way. Last year, he said he struggled to hurdle, but a change from five steps between hurdles to a much faster three steps has made the difference.
“It took a lot of practice,” Provance said. “I practiced every day and now it’s natural for me. My coaches were a huge help.”
Chadron Middle School Coach Katie O’Boyle said last year Provance began alternating between five-stepping and three-stepping.
“I told him ‘Xander, you are ten-times the size of any seventh grader around the region, three-stepping is something that should come natural to you,’” O’Boyle said. “One meet he did it and was super pumped and one meet he clipped a hurdle and fell so he was terrified to do it again.”
At the beginning of this year O’Boyle told Provance they’d no longer be alternating.
“He looked me in the eye and said ‘yes ma’am’ and that first race was insane and he blew everyone out of the water,” O’Boyle said.
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“I was just trying to finish the race - win the race - and I kept getting ahead but didn’t see by how much,” Provance said of his performance in the 100 hurdles in Scottsbluff. “When I crossed the finish line I remember smiling and then the lady told me my time and I was so excited.”
“He flew,” O’Boyle said. “It was chills from the whole stadium.”
Just two days after setting the national best time in the 100 hurdles, Provance’s time was bested by eighth grader Luke Noland of Kearney Middle School in Kearney, Missouri. Noland ran the event two-hundredths of a second faster than Provance.
Provance’s 200 hurdles mark still stands and he continues to hold Nebraska’s best time in the 100 where he’s about a second faster than second-place hurdler Jacob Horner of Elkhorn Grandview, in Omaha.
His 200 hurdles time is about a tenth of a second faster than fellow Nebraskan Cooper Weitzel, of Archbishop Bergan, in Fremont, who holds second place in the nation behind Provance.
According to O’Boyle, Provance should qualify for State in the 100 and 200 hurdles, as well as the high jump. He’ll also join teammates Seth Gaswick, Malachi Swallow and Kolby Denke in the 4x100 relay, but official word on the qualifications had not been received by time of print.
O’Boyle thinks Provance could hit the record-setting 100 hurdles mark again.
“To see Xander’s face be so shocked when he was given his time - he had a moment of realization there,” O’Boyle said. “He knows that he’s something special and if he keeps working at it - he can either keep practicing and progressing or he might have a time where he might slack back. But I think with his motivation where it is now he’s really excited for what the future holds.”
“When you have a kid like Xander, anything is possible,” she said. “He’s such a good kid to work with and is the definition of what it is to be coachable.”