In the time it takes most people to read this sentence, Jon Flight can run 60 meters, clear five hurdles and reset long-held Hastings College school records. In fact, the first-year student has done just that — four times in a single season.
Flight set the pace for his collegiate track career on Dec. 9, 2017, when he shaved a tenth of a second off of the HC school record for the 60-meter hurdles with his run of 8.18 seconds;
the record had stood since 2009.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect myself to break the record; I didn’t even expect myself to run that time,” Flight said. “It all just happened.”
The performance earned Flight an automatic qualification to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Men’s Indoor Track and Field National Championship, but the security of attending nationals didn’t slow him down. Just over a month later, he reset the record with a time of 8.11. Then again in two weeks, when he finished in 8 seconds flat.
“I’ve noticed all throughout high school and obviously that first meet, I’ve kind of just ran, but I was kind of lazy with it; I wouldn’t run that hard in between hurdles,” Flight said. “I started getting to the point where I would start running even harder in between hurdles, and then that’s when my time
The HC school record now stands at 7.96. Flight’s final time at the national competition in Pittsburg, Kansas. The first-year track star returned on March 2 with the second-place title in the NAIA.
But success is hardly a stranger for this athlete, who ended his high school career with an undefeated season in the 110-meter hurdles. The HC coaches recognized Flight’s immense potential for growth and quickly recruited the Wahoo, Nebraska, native to run with the Broncos.
“Obviously, Jon is a very talented hurdler, so his recruitment was a no brainer,” said Luke Mahoney, hurdles and sprints coach. “You add that to his passion for the sport, and specifically his skill set of hurdling, and you know you’ll have a successful
Ironically, Flight didn’t originally consider building a life based on track and field. Growing up, his sights were set on football — until an unexpected health concern changed his plans.
“In sixth grade I had a grand mal seizure, and so we went to the hospital the next day and we found out that I have epilepsy seizure disorder. It was kind of out of control. I would have like 20–30 seizures per day,” Flight said.
His doctors forbade him from playing contact sports, and although his condition improved with medication, his future in football ended. Seeking a way to fill the gap, Flight turned to track and field.
“I had never thought about running track. The only time I ever touched that track was running across it to go onto the (football) field,” Flight said.
Flight continued to be tentative about track until early in his high school career, when he won two varsity meets as a freshman. The accomplishments solidified his decision to pursue hurdling, and he continued to make impressive strides from there.
“If I wouldn’t have made it here for epilepsy, I wouldn’t have made it here (at all). It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, that’s a bad thing,’ but then again it’s good thing,” Flight said.
It also turned out to be a good thing for the Broncos. The first-year hurdler said he sees his drive inspiring his teammates to perform at their top levels, too. He’s even offered an ultimatum to the 4×400 team in hopes of pushing his peers to their full potential.
“They want me on there, and I said, ‘If everyone can drop their time, then yeah, we will run it really fast,’ and I’ve seen people starting to drop their times,” Flight said.
He hopes to eventually act as a student coach for the team, expanding his mentorship opportunities. As of now, it’s enough to simply serve as a model of success for the other runners.
“Success is contagious, and when you have guys like Jon, Alex (Wellington), Caleb (Cowling), Grant (Wickham), etc., it makes everyone want to step up and contribute to the best of their abilities,” Mahoney said.
Through it all, Flight remains humble about his achievements. He starts every race by shaking the hands of his opponents — a habit he said he’s also noticed in his teammates.
“I take even more pride in the respect that he shows to his fellow competitors every meet,” Mahoney said. “It’s one thing to win, it’s another to win with class.”
Now, as Flight prepares to start his first collegiate outdoor track season, he has only one thing on his mind.
“Records: That’s all I go for. Records this, records that,” Flight said. “And that’s mainly how all my records are getting beat. All I had in my head when I was running was the record.”
His sights are set on running 14.10 in the 110-meter hurdles and 52.00 in the 400-meter hurdles. If he meets his goal, he’ll dethrone the school records set for these events in 1999 and 1981, respectively.
For Flight, the best may be
yet to come.
“There was never a doubt that Jon had all the potential to be an All-American as a freshman, but you never want to get too far ahead of things when coaching,” Mahoney said. “The scary thing is, he’ll be even better in the outdoor season.”
Photos credits: Caitlin Smith.