Considering Warren JFK’s Morgan Rice won the Division III state title by more than a half-second — an eternity in a race as short as the 100-meter hurdles — and considering the race lasted less than 15 seconds, you wouldn’t think nerves would have played a big part.

You’d be wrong.

“At the beginning, I was extremely nervous,” said Rice, who just finished her junior year. “I knew I could place in the top three because I went into [the finals] in first, but I was afraid it was gonna be close and some girl was going to win by a duck.

“I wanted to get out fast and get the lead so I wouldn’t have to worry.”

She did. And she worried anyway.

“By the third hurdle, I looked around and I was like, ‘All right, you’ve got to keep going. You don’t want to lose this,’” she said.

Was she was able to relax after clearing the final hurdle cleanly?

“It’s more like a feeling of panic,” she said. “You’re like, ‘Now I have to sprint the whole way [to the finish line] or somebody is going to sprint faster than me to the finish.

“When I won, I was just really happy.”

Rice’s time of 14.81 isn’t far off the state meet record (14.39) or the overall Division III record (14.25), two marks Rice will be gunning for next spring.

She’s also hoping to win the 300 hurdles after placing fourth this year behind two seniors and a junior. Add in her spot on two JFK relays — the 4x200 and the 4x400 — and she’s looking at another busy spring.

“I’m training hard,” said Rice. “I want to get even better.”

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