Beating the No. 1 ranked world hurdler and winning two USATF National Track and Field Championships last year is an experience Ron Hilton describes in superlatives.
“One of the greatest thrills I ever had in my life,” Hilton said.
Hilton, 56, of Vancouver, won both the 100- and 400-meter hurdles (men’s 55-59) at nationals, the former over world No. 1 Damon Blakemore, in an event Hilton had only run in once before 2021 because of a hamstring injury that plagued him for much of the season.
Now knowing what being a national champion feels like, Hilton will be chasing it again this season beginning May 7 at the Hayward Classic in Eugene, Ore., before taking on the 2022 USATF National Track and Field Championships in Lexington, Ky., July 28-31.
The May 7 event is a USATF-sanctioned Masters event and the first since 2018 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and renovations on Hayward Field. Hilton entered in the 100 and 200 sprint events, and will get a rematch in the 100 with David Gibbon, who won the event at nationals last season while Hilton finished sixth.
Hilton has already booked plane tickets for nationals in Kentucky, and hopes to be healthier for this trip compared to last season.
A right hamstring injury that nagged him for two years finally healed last April, but just two weeks later, he tweaked it again and was unable to train in sprints.
“I was pretty upset because it was getting really close to nationals and I’d invested all of this money to go. I was thinking, ‘What can I do?’ I was really trying to rehab it. Three weeks before the meet, I did a workout, just trying to jog and layed off. (I) just tried to time it right and it paid off. I healed up just in time for the meet.”
He went on to win the 100 hurdles in a tight race, crossing the line in 15.60 ahead of Blakemore’s 15.66, and earned the No. 10 world ranking at the end of the year. He was ranked No. 8 in the 400 hurdles after posting a time of 1:05.03.
Just a couple months ago, Hilton did a deep dive researching supplements and designed his own program to help in a few areas like muscle recovery, specifically, the hamstring, and heart rate. He’s already noticing a difference.
“When you get my age, if you don’t eat right and you don’t supplement right, your body starts to be a hassle to deal with,” Hilton said. “If you supplement right, you can kind of nullify that to a larger degree where it’s not nagging so much.”
Hilton’s next goal is to climb into the top five world rankings in the 100 hurdles. It would mark yet another milestone of a journey that began in 2017 when he joined the Portland Masters Track Club and began competing in Masters events.
“It’s been one of the best things I ever did,” Hilton said. “I’ve met a lot of people and got a lot of experience from it.”