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May 13, 2010

GIs Connors hurdles over expectations

By Jonah Bronstein Niagara Gazette

AMHERST

Most Division I athletes are awarded scholarships based on the potential they showed as scholastic competitors.

Others, like Grand Island graduate John Connors, earn their free tuition by proving their worth at the college level.

Connors, a four-time all-Niagara Frontier League selection, walked on the University at Buffalo track and field team in 2006.

His freshman season at UB was unremarkable, but he showed progress as a sophomore before being slowed by a stress fracture in his shin. Last year, he broke out with a second-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles race at the Mid-American Conference Championship meet.

Hes one of the top guys in the conference, one of the top guys in the East, Bulls coach Perry Jenkins realized. Weve got to give him a scholarship.

It feels great, said Connors, a chemical engineering major. Thats what I was working for my four years. That and winning a MAC championship.

Connors will get that chance today when the 400 hurdles preliminary race being contested at UB Stadium. The finals are scheduled for 3:10 p.m. Saturday.

Though he posted the fourth fastest time (53.30 seconds) so far this season in the 400 hurdles, after freshman teammate Will Cole (52.56) and the Central Michigan tandem of Renaldo Powell (53.12) and Branden Post (53.24), Connors said he hasnt put together his best race yet.

This season hasnt been as consistent as last year, but I ran my second fastest time two weeks ago and Im ready to peak right now, he said. Im looking to come out, stay focused, run my race and give it my all in the last 150 meters.

He has all the capabilities to become a MAC champion, Jenkins said. John has been a surprise the last four years, coming out on the team as walk-on and really working himself into this position. Im really proud of him.