Jehu Chesson has tasted the track. He’s face-planted on the track. He’s bled on the track. He’s clipped his toes, ankles and everything in between on the hurdles. He’s gone head over heels. And every time Chesson, 18, has picked himself up, dusted himself off and gone back to work. “Every young hurdler learns. You have to overcome your fear of the hurdle. You’re going to hit it. You’re going to fall,” says Chesson, Ladue’s standout track athlete. “The willingness to get back up, that’s the hardest part.”
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Chesson never stopped getting up, and it took him to the top of the podium. Last spring, he won the Class 4 300-meter hurdle state championship in 37.44 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in state history. This year, he’s hoping to defend his title. Chesson will begin the road to Jefferson City and the state championships next Saturday at the district meet at Marquette. If all goes well, he’ll advance to sectionals and then the state meet.
That Chesson won the state crown a year ago was a bit of a surprise, even for the folks at Ladue. A workout warrior with a superior work ethic, he’d shown signs of promise during the season. But it wasn’t until the final race of last season that he put everything together. “It was a bit of surprise in our camp,” Ladue coach Keith Harder says. “I don’t know what happened, if someone said something to him or what. But, he decided he was going to run it (the 300 hurdles), and he won it. He was the last qualifier for the finals and he won it.”
Hurdling requires an immense amount speed, technique and intestinal fortitude. A gifted athlete, Chesson will play wide receiver for the University of Michigan in the fall. He has speed to burn and, as you know, isn’t afraid to eat a little track now and then. But mastering the technique of the hurdles was something that took years of repetition. “Freshman and sophomore year hurdling was frustrating,” Chesson says.
As he worked with Ladue’s assistant coach at the time, Sean Burris, Chesson’s technique improved. It got to the point that his workouts showed the vast potential he possessed. But that didn’t always come through in meets. Chesson eked his way through both the district and sectional meets last season just to get to state. When it all came together for him on the grand stage it, left Harder and Burris beaming. “Some kids never figure it out. You know that potential is in there. When they do it, it’s great,” Harder says. “It’s cool to see.”
As he pushed through his training sessions, Chesson immediately could tell when he had a technique breakthrough. The light bulb went off and he knew what it felt like to have his rhythm in sync. “I knew. From then on it became technique,” Chesson says.
Technique won’t be Chesson’s biggest challenge this time around. Missouri and St. Louis, in particular, have a multitude of outstanding hurdle talent this spring. Chesson blistered the track at Ladue’s Phil Brusca Invitational in the 110 hurdles and took third. “This is his first year running them (the 110s),” Harder says. “He’s still learning them. I think he has huge potential in the 110s.”
There isn’t much time between now and the district meet, but if there’s anything Chesson can do to make himself better, he won’t hesitate—even if it means getting a mouth full of the track.