WATERLOO — On the day when it was announced that the high school track and field season had been canceled, Deyton Love looked towards the future and stepped up his training routine.
The Waterloo West senior walked out to the track. He adjusted the hurdles from the high school height of 39 inches to the collegiate height of 42 and went to work.
“I kept telling myself you have bigger things to look forward to,” said Love, who plans to compete in track and field at Wartburg College. “Rather than dwell on what could have happened this season, it’s over, just look towards the future and keep training to do what you want.”
As Class 4A’s top returning hurdler from last season, all signs pointed towards Love as a favorite to capture Drake and state titles while chasing records. The Wahawk senior validated a 60-meter indoor time of 8.05 during an AAU meet with an 8.04 against a field of the state’s best in early March at the A.D. Dickinson Relays inside the UNI-Dome.
To put Love’s times into perspective, no prep hurdler over the past decade had clocked under 8.10 inside the dome. Ankeny Centennial’s Riley Moss recorded an 8.11 at the 2018 Dickinson Relays before stepping outside and producing Iowa’s all-time 110-meter high hurdle record of 13.85 later that season.
“I was hoping to run sub 14 outdoors in the highs,” Love said. “Training was going really, really well and I was hitting times in practice that were really fast. I was just waiting for that first outdoor meet to show up and it didn’t happen.
“I tried to stay optimistic, but then again I had to be real with myself. I didn’t think they were going to continue with the season. It hurt. Having a great support system with my coaches and my friends helped kind of keep my spirits up a little bit. But it’s been hard.”
Love finished runner-up in the Class 4A state 110-meter high hurdles after a junior season in which he estimates he was running at 70% due to a hamstring strain. Once he returned to full strength over the past summer, Love refined his technique and added weight onto his slim frame through lifting.
The Wahawk senior wanted to not only win every 110-meter hurdle race he entered, Love wanted to do it in convincing fashion. His impressive indoor start was enough for him to become a candidate for Gatorade’s Iowa track and field athlete of the year.
“The goal was for him to win, but we were looking at times,” West coach Matt Mostek said. “We knew that he was going to be one of the best in the state so winning wasn’t going to be enough. ... He was going to have a really good year.”
A visual learner willing to invest extra time necessary to succeed, Love acclimated himself to track and field’s biggest stages at the Drake Relays and state meet throughout his high school career. His first three seasons included trips to the state long jump pit, with a finish as high as sixth as a junior.
Love placed third in the state 110 hurdles as a sophomore. He also reached state in the 400-meter hurdles and ran on an eighth-place 4x400-meter relay that season.
This resume is even more impressive when considering high school track and field is the first organized sport in which Love ever competed.
Love never played youth sports growing up like baseball, basketball or soccer. He was captivated by the Olympics and wanted to become a gymnast, but even that sport didn’t include any formal training.
Love watched videos and taught himself how to complete back flips in his yard. Once he learned the basics, he added twists and worked his way up to doubles on the lawn.
“My parents were always terrified of that,” Love recalls. “They were like, ‘We don’t want you to break a leg or anything.’”
Encouraged to put apply his athletic ability towards a safer sport, Love finally tried out for the only other Olympic sport in which he showed interest — track and field.
“Naturally I’m a very flexible person,” Love said. “Hurdles and gymnastics relates a little bit. It looked fun, it looked cool but I just never really gave it a shot until freshman year.
“I had asked around, ‘Is it too late to try out for the track team?,’ Because I didn’t try out in middle school,” Love related. “Everyone told me it’s high school now. Training is harder. You have to really put your full effort into it if you really want to try it out.”
West’s coaches recognized Love’s build would be a good fit for hurdles and long jump. The rest is history.
“He picked it up super fast and made it to state as a freshman,” Mostek said. “He’s been eager to learn. The whole time he just wants to make himself better, watch videos of himself, the whole four years he’s just trying to continuously improve his craft.”
For a newcomer to organized athletics, Love joined West’s team at a perfect time. Senior sprinters Tayshaun Cooper, Carlton Todd and Isaiah Arndorfer joined Sam Tudor on a state championship 4x200 relay Love’s freshman season. Their approach to the sport provided a blueprint for success.
“Having that great group of seniors there to kind of lead the team and have such a great atmosphere, that really drew me in and it was really motivating,” Love said. “I didn’t put too many expectations on myself just because I was learning everything from scratch. I had a really goofy running style.”
Not only did Love become one of the state’s top hurdlers and long jumpers, he was the top open 400 runner on this year’s West team and had prepared to try more sprints and relays.
“He wasn’t just all about himself,” Mostek said. “He was really excited about helping a 4x2 qualify for Drake or helping a 4x1 qualify for Drake. Whatever was needed, he was going to be there.”
A studious athlete poised for a successful senior season, this wasn’t how Love’s high school career was supposed to end.
“I’m still heartbroken for him,” Mostek said. “I think about track still almost every day and we’ve been going on almost two months and they haven’t been in practice.
“I can’t feel for that kid enough for how much time and work that he put in and how he prepared. He was going to just leave his mark, not only on the school, but on the state for what he could do.”
Love is now determined to contend for national titles during his career at Wartburg. Away from the track, he’s avid fisher who plans to eventually work for the Department of Natural Resources after studying water quality engineering.
“I try to keep a positive mindset because it’s still really early in the year and 2020 could end in a really great way,” Love said. “I’m really happy for the moments that I did have, but the past is in the past. You’ve got to focus on the future now.”
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