Feature Friday: EB's Chris Serrao Hurdles To The Top

Racing for the first time in more than a year, Chris Serrao wasn't exactly sure what to expect when he got into the blocks to run the 55m hurdles at the Ocean Breeze Elite Invitational last Saturday on Staten Island.

He knew he was stronger and faster than he's ever been, but would it all come together when the junior at East Brunswick battled over the barriers?

You bet it did!!!

Serrao exceeded his own expectations when he not only blasted a PR, but took over the No. 1 spot in the state with a winning time of 7.58. No one else in the state has gone under 7.70. 

If you're looking for a breakout star in the state as we head into the outdoor season, Serrao is certainly a guy who has all the tools to drop some red hot times  He has that great combination of talent and a relentless work ethic, which should add up to some great performances. 

NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Serrao for an in-depth Q and A where he shared how she got involved in the sport, how he's learned from watching a world record-holder, his goals for his junior year,, and a whole lot more.

So, lean back in your fancy recliner, lay down on the couch, or kick back in your home office and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on East Brunswick star junior Chris Serrao.

Chris Serrao Interview

NJM: First off, congrats on your big PR of 7.58 to win the 55 hurdles at the Ocean Breeze Elite Invite on Saturday. Your previous best time was 7.72, so that's obviously a huge drop. What's your reaction to the time you ran? Surprised or did you sense this was coming? 

I sensed a better time was coming, but seeing the time on the screen was surprising. It has been a year since I have raced, so I wasn't sure what I would run. 

Your 7.58 is the fastest time in the state this season. What does that mean to you, Chris? There are lots of great hurdlers in the state, and no one else has gone under 7.70. 

Having the fastest time in the state at this point in the season is crazy to think about. I know there is a lot of competition out there so I will continue to work towards improving my times.

What has been the biggest difference between yourself last year compared to this year? What specifically do you feel has enabled you to drop your time so much? Your start, your lead leg, faster between the hurdles etc.?

The biggest difference between myself this year and last year is that I've become bigger, faster, and stronger. I've added weight lifting to my daily routine and I put my best effort into every workout I do. 

It looks like Saturday's race was your first race in more than a year. What did it feel like to be back out on the track competing? How much did you miss that feeling of taking the starting line and doing what you love so much?

It felt amazing to be back. Saturday's race gave me hope that we can have more meets in the next coming months. I couldn't be happier returning to the track. 

With a new PR come new goals? What kind of time would you like to hit the rest of this season and this outdoor season in the high hurdles?

The current school record is a 7.44 indoors, and 14.55 outdoors. My eyes are set on breaking those records and setting my own. 

I see that you also run the 400 and the 400 hurdles. What kind of goals do you have for those races this outdoor season?

Setting a new PR is always my initial goal. I would like to run sub 53.5 in the 400 and break 63 in the 400 hurdles. As a track runner though, you can never be satisfied with just a PR, so my ultimate goals are to hit 50 in the 400 and sub 55 in the 400 hurdles.

Unfortunately, there wasn't an outdoor season last spring because of COVID-19, so you didn't get a chance to run outdoor track last spring. How challenging was that and how tough was it mentally to deal with?

It was very frustrating because I felt I was just getting started. The 110 hurdle is one of my favorite events and I lost the opportunity to race against my competition. I am just happy we are back now. 

What type of things did you do to stay sharp since last indoor season? What kind of training/drills did you do? 

During the springtime, I kept in contact with my coaches because we were hopeful things would clear up and we could have a season. They were giving me workouts to do 6 days a week and at that time I started to incorporate weight training as well. Towards the end of the summer, a few friends and I joined the cross country team in order to hold us accountable for completing workouts and to make sure we are pushing each other to become the best version of ourselves. 

What do you consider your greatest strength as a track and field athlete? 

I would say my greatest strength is my hustle and dedication. I make sure that nobody outworks me and that I give it my all, day in and day out.

Let's get into some background, Chris. Can you tell me how, when, and why you first got started competing in track and field? 

I was always very athletic as a child, but it wasn't until my freshman year when I started running track. After participating in winter track, I knew this was the sport for me.  At this point, I decided to quit all other sports and focus solely on track. 

It takes most hurdlers a couple seasons before they feel really comfortable and start running fast times over the barriers. What was the toughest aspect of hurdling for you to learn, and what do you love the most about hurdling?

The hardest aspect of hurdling for me was learning the stepping. I was on the shorter side my freshman year so hitting 3 steps in between each hurdle was a challenge. What I love most about hurdling is its level of difficulty. You need to learn how to run fast while still maintaining good technique. 

When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moment when you realized you could be a very good track and field athlete? 

The first huge breakthrough moment was the outdoor GMC relays my freshman year. I was around the 6th best hurdler on the team at that time and due to injuries, I was thrown into the race. I ran a 15.8 split which was my first ever time going under 16 and helped my team get second place. Ever since that moment I've been in the shuttle hurdle relay. 

When is your next meet?

I am running the 400 in a meet this weekend at Metuchen but the next time I run hurdles is March 27th in Metuchen as well.  

Who is your favorite college/pro hurdler to watch and why? And what have you learned from watching them? 

My favorite professional hurdler is Grant Holloway. He is one of the best hurdlers in the world and has such great form. I've improved my start and form over the hurdles from watching videos of him racing. 

Note:  Holloway wrapped up his incredible indoor season with a pending, new world record of 7.29 in the 60m hurdles at the World Athletics Indoor Tour on Feb. 24 in Madrid, Spain. He broke Colin Jackson's (Great Britain) 27-year-old record of 7.30, set in 1994 in Sindelfingen, Germany.

What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete? 

 I love how Track is an individual and team sport. I get to run individual races to prove myself and show what I can do and I also get the opportunity to compete in relays with my teammates.

What are your biggest long-term goals in track and field for high school, and college and beyond? 

As I mentioned before, I have hopes to break the individual indoor and outdoor school records for my high school. I also have hopes to compete at a D1 college and maybe eventually run in a world championships race.  

What type of things do you like to do when you're not practicing, racing, or doing schoolwork? Have any hobbies or are you involved in any other sports or clubs/activities at school?

When I am not practicing, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and playing sports. I have always enjoyed playing football, lacrosse, and basketball, and recently I've started golfing.