MV’s Burhenn is boys track and field athlete of the year

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Mt. Vernon’s George Burhenn, 2022 Boys Track Athlete of the Year.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon boys track and field coach Bruce Kendall called him, “The Beast.”

At 6-feet, 5-inches tall, 215 pounds, strong, skilled, fast, with a collection of medals and blue ribbons for his performance in hurdles and relay races, Mt. Vernon’s George Burhenn fits the description.

“He had the highest placing in the state and scored 175 points for us in just highs and intermediate (hurdles) alone. Plus, he set a school record in the intermediates,” Kendall said of Burhenn, the Daily Reporter Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Burhennfinished fifth in the state in the intermediate (300) hurdles with a school-record time of 39.267 seconds.

The three-sport rising senior wrapped up his night at the IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals, held in Bloomington last month, as the leadoff leg of the Marauders third-place 4×400-meter relay team. The group that included Burhenn, Wilbert Jones, Tristan Trevino and Andres Langston had a time of three minutes, 20.67 seconds, setting another school record.

At the state meet, Burhenn qualified for three events. He finished 15th in the 110 high hurdles with a time of 15.06 seconds. He missed advancing to the finals by .21 seconds.

“I think playing football and basketball really helps having a competitive edge all year long,” Burhenn said. “I get a lot more nervous for football and basketball games. During hurdling in track I don’t think about it too much. I just go out and do it.”

He’s too focused to be nervous.

Kendall said a key to his talented hurdler’s success is the ability of not getting distracted.

“George won the regional (300 hurdles) by keeping focused on his lane — tunnel vision,” Kendall said. “He’s got every step measured. When you get tired your strides get shorter, his do not. He is still hitting the marks in front of and behind the hurdle. He doesn’t short step or sky a hurdle. He is smooth every time, every step, like a robot.”

Burhenn agreed on the importance of focus and detail.

It’s not always easy to do.

“(Focus) is a huge thing to me,” Burhenn said. “In the 110 hurdle race, every step is counted. The first hurdle is eight steps and every hurdle from there on is three steps each time. It’s so easy to mess up because you might see someone coming to the left of you, catching you, and it can take your mind away for a split second.”

Or, in a rare case in the regional, a runner fell and knocked his hurdle into Burhenn’s lane.

“It didn’t phase me. I just kept going,” Burhenn said.

He swept the hurdle races in the Hancock County Meet and Hoosier Heritage Conference Championships.

He won the intermediates at both the sectional and regional. He placed second in the highs at both events. In the regional, he lost the highs in a photo finish.

For the season, he had 11 victories in the intermediates and nine in the highs.

“All the kids he lost to (in IMs) ended up wearing state medals. Iron sharpens iron,” Kendall added.

The 1600 relay team only lost one time, at the regional. They won their heat race at the state meet and then waited for the final heat race to be completed to see if their time would be good enough to medal.

“When the race gets longer, he gets better,” Kendall said of Burhenn. “He doesn’t get too frustrated. You watch the state meet, he got behind the pack a little bit on the second and third hurdle (in the 300). The last 50 yards he closes it out. Most of the kids are good about closing things out the last 150 yards. We practice it a lot and he’s really good at it.”

He did the same later that night for the relay team.

“George became very reliable,” Kendall said of the relay’s leadoff man. “You watch him in that 4×4 (at state), he gets behind and in the last 150, just like the intermediates, he erases all that deficit. When he hands off, more often than not, we’re in first place.”

The race was not only a school-record time but also a school-record third-place finish for the event.

“The 300 race, I knew if I just ran what I’d been doing all year, I thought I could get on the podium,” Burhenn said. “When we went into the 4×4, I had a good feeling. It was the last race of the meet and the last race of the season. Everyone was hyped going into it.

“We were in the second heat and a lot of people don’t make the podium from the second heat. I knew we really had to be on our stuff and do what we do, which we did. We got on the podium, which was really cool.”

Burhenn said he will continue to have a busy schedule for his senior season.

He recently verbally committed to play football at Purdue University. He’ll turn his pads in for a basketball uniform in the winter. When track season comes, he expects to do the same three events he qualified for in the state meet, and wants to add one more, too.

“I want to definitely go back (to state) in all three events,” Burhenn said. “I think next year, I’m going to do discus, too.”