St. Francis junior John Santiago’s track career started with an accident.
As a freshman, Santiago wanted to play baseball but missed the team’s tryouts. He said he still wanted to play a spring sport, however. So that led him to consider track and field.
Santiago has since become an accomplished hurdler. He set a school record in the 300-meter hurdles last year and took fourth in the event at the Class 2A meet.
Santiago also is a running back for St. Francis and scored six touchdowns this past season. He talked with University of Minnesota student reporter Nate Gotlieb last week about hurdling, his goals for the upcoming track and field season and more.
Q: What do you like about hurdling?
A: I just like the rush, basically … 300 hurdles is mostly an endurance race, so it has room for error. I ran the 110-meter hurdles but wasn’t as good at it because they’re higher hurdles and I’m a shorter guy.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: Just to go to the state finals race again and then hopefully get at least on the podium, or maybe be a state champion or a state runner-up.
Q: What do you run besides the 300 hurdles?
A: My coach wants me to run the 110-meter hurdles because my jump has gotten stronger. My hurdle form has gotten better, and I’ve gotten a little taller since last year. But I run the 4-x-2 (800-meter relay, and sometimes I’ll run the 4-x-1 (400-meter relay) and also they want me to run the 4-x-4 (1,600-meter relay).
Q: What are your goals for those events?
A: Hopefully I can bring the 4-x-4 to state. Me and our 4-x-4 team are strong, ’cause we’re all back returning from last year, so hopefully we’ll be strong enough to go to state this year. Or a section finals would be great, too.
Q: How do you prepare for your races?
A: I’ll workout with the football team and track team almost every day and then go to hurdle practice every day.
Q: What’s your pre-race routine?
A: There’s nothing in particular — just stay loose, stay flexible. The most important thing about racing is staying flexible and staying loose.
Q: What are your plans for after high school?
A: Hopefully run college track or play college football, but I think track would be the better strong suit.
Q: Which is your favorite sport?
A: Both of them are my favorite basically.
Q: When you started track in ninth grade, which did you like better?
A: I definitely liked football better, but I’ve progressed in track better and faster, so track was easily in the running for one of my favorite sports.
Q: What’s your pre-race meal or snack?
A: I usually just have some granola bars and eat light, because I’ve eaten big meals before races, and I just end up seeing it again after the race, because 300 hurdles is just an endurance race and takes a lot out of you.