Overcoming Hurdles To Be First In His Family To Go To College | KUOW News and Information

Overcoming Hurdles To Be First In His Family To Go To College

Sep 23, 2015

"I visualize the race. All I’m thinking about is just silence. Dead silence.

"Then the gun goes off. I'm just trying to get to the finish line as quick as possible."

Christapherson Grant's life revolves around track. Since he was a high school freshman, his dream was to win a Washington state championship in track. This year, he achieved his dream, but he had to jump over a lot more than track hurdles to get there.

Representing For His Family
Chris Grant with his grandmother Claudia Jean Grant and his mother, Halaysha Grant.
Credit KUOW Photo / Angela Nguyen

It all started in seventh grade. Grant's friends were running a race and he wanted to fit in, so he gave it a shot.

After his first meet he was told he had to pay a sports fee of $100. "I didn’t want to pay it," he recalled, "so I just quit and spent those two years of my middle school life playing video games."

It was more than not wanting to pay the fee. Grant's mom is a single parent of two. Entry fees to meets and running gear were pricey. That’s where Grant's Grandma Claudia came in.

Chris Grant and his Grandma Claudia.
Credit KUOW Photo / Angela Nguyen

"I'm not a rich lady," Claudia Jean Grant explained. "But if a kid has a yearning to do something in life, then I believe that the parent should encourage them and push them toward that."

"She is like a second mother to me," Chris said.

His grandmother offered him financial and emotional support.

"We have a bond because I always try to help him the best way I can," she added.

Claudia Jean Grant didn’t want her grandson to miss opportunities. She once wanted to go to an art school, but her mother said it was too far away. Grant's mom gave up plans for a modeling career when she got pregnant with Grant.

No one in Grant's family has gone to a four-year college. He felt the need to represent for them. Track allowed him to do that. He wanted to break stereotypes people have about children of single parents, especially black single parents "that they probably won’t amount to nothing, they’ll just be a dropout, they’ll just cause trouble around the streets.

"It invigorates me to prove them wrong," Grant said. And it motivated him to get to "the next level" – college." That's honestly why I do track," he explained.

A Rising Star

Grant joined the track team at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood. His goal became to win a state championship because he knew that would get him noticed by college coaches.

When Grant hurdles, he transforms. Imagine him on the track at a race. He’s focused only on what lies ahead of him. He’s crouched down at the start and sprints out of the blocks the moment the guns goes off. Arms pumping, knees driven. The first hurdle is right there. He quickly jumps off one foot, the other following close behind. He barely grazes the hurdle.

Grant with his high school hurdles coach, Phil Hodges.
Credit Courtesy of Matt Vanni

"He’s become one of the most hard-working, genuine people I know," said a high school teammate, Megan Zollars. Added teammate Harry White, "he really pushes himself when nobody else is there to push him."

Grant's high school hurdles coach, Phil Hodges said he "saw in him a maturity when he was a senior this past year. He took it upon himself to be a good leader." Hodges added, "but he's a goofball."

Grant was a rising track star. He was invited to race at national meets. He broke school records. He was featured on the front page of the Seattle Times' sports section.

Then he fell.

"Really? You had to get injured now?"

It was spring of his senior year, just six weeks before the state championship. Grant was competing at the April 18 Eason Invitational. He had already won the 110-meter hurdles, and was racing in the 300-meter hurdles final. It was the last straightaway. The guy in the next lane was catching up to him, so Grant ran faster.

As he jumped over the next hurdle he lost momentum. He literally hit the ground running.

"The doctor gave it to me clean," Grant said. "He said, ‘you broke a clavicle,' and I said, ‘what’s a clavicle?’ He said, ‘your collarbone.’"

An X-ray of Grant's broken collarbone.
Credit Courtesy of the Grant faily

Grant went back to playing video games during his recovery. But then panic started to set in. The state championship was only a few weeks away, and he didn’t want everything he had worked for to go to waste.

"Really? You had to get injured now?" he asked himself. He struggled through the pain – not taking any pills for it – and kept fighting. His doctor tested his strength by making him do five pushups.

"It hurt so bad," Grant recalled, but he lied and said he wasn't in pain so that his doctor would let him compete.

When the day came to race at the state championship, Grant ran "as fast as I ever have." With a broken collarbone, he hurdled his way to first place in two events: the 3A 110 and 300 meter hurdles. (3A is a classification for schools with 991-1252 students).

"I think it was kind of a destiny thing for him," said coach Hodges. "He’s a fine example of someone that you can’t give up on."

"You gotta push," Grant explained. "Through all the pain. Through all the sweat. And all the other things that’ll be in your way as a hurdle.

"You know, life is a bunch of hurdles that you can clear."

Grant won two state championships and graduated high school. There was just one more goal he had to figure out: college. One day this summer Grant was hyped. "I just got offered a full ride!" he exclaimed.

This fall, he is running on a full scholarship at Washington State University. He is the first in his family to attend a four-year college.

Watch Grant compete in the 2015 State Championship:

 

Two years ago @christapherson was dead last in the Men's 110 High Hurdles. Here he is now with a broken collarbone qualifing for finals with a first place time of 14.20. Watch him become a state champ tomorrow at Mount Tahoma! #proud #trackspiration #hurdlesquad #wiaa #nofilter #vanniyellinginthebackground

A video posted by Angela Nguyen (@ultraraduberfad) on

May 28, 2015 at 11:09pm PDT

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