A younger Seth Hoynoski displays his versatility as a freshman Mohawk triple-jumper. Two years later, he’s a national level hurdler headed to the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif., from July 25 through 31. RECORDER FILE PHOTO/MATT BURKHARTT

Seth Hoynoski just gave himself an early birthday present - a 2,900-mile road trip to California.

The Shelburne resident parlayed a pair of top-five weekend finishes into a berth in the 2016 USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, which will be contested from July 25 through 31 at Sacramento State University.

Hoynoski - who will celebrate his 16th birthday during the 50th annual July 28 competition - qualified for the 110-meter high hurdles and 400 intermediate hurdles in the boys’ age 15 and 16 division. He won’t begin his events until the morning of July 27, when the first round of the 400 hurdles is scheduled.

Up until the spring, Hoynoski had never even run either hurdles event outdoors, having only competed in the 55-meter hurdles during the indoor season.

That’s when Warriors head coach Shawn Billings, realizing his depth in hurdles was thin, “encouraged” Hoynoski to try both events.

 

“I planned to do hurdles because (Coach Billings) made me do it,” recalled Hoynoski. “Nobody else was doing hurdles at the time. Coach said, ‘Just see how you do, and hopefully you score a few points.’ He was quite surprised at my performance, so I stuck with it.”

Not only did Hoynoski stick with it. He excelled at both hurdles, recording five wins and a second in six attempts at the 110s, and adding two wins and a runner-up finish in his three attempts at the 400s. Then he finished second in the 400 hurdles in a career-best and school-record 59.47 seconds, and fourth in the 100 hurdles in 16.70 at the PVIAC Division II Championships at his home Buckland track on May 21.

The following weekend, Hoynoski placed second in the 400 hurdles in 59.66 during the Central-Western Massachusetts Division II Championships at Fitchburg State University. He did not complete in the 110 hurdles.

His season would have come to a conclusion there had not former teammate and 2016 Mohawk graduate Eli Shearer convinced him to try the Junior Olympic circuit.

“Entering the Junior Olympics was a last-minute thing,” admitted Hoynoski. “Eli told me, ‘You should really try it out because I know you’re a good athlete and you like track a lot. So this will help enhance your performance and help you for next season.’”

Convinced, Hoynoski registered for the USATF Junior Olympic New England Regionals on June 18 at Fitchburg State. He didn’t have eye-popping numbers in either event but still ran well enough to earn victories in both, claiming the 110 highs in 17.74 and the 400 intermediates in 1:01.09.

That earned him a spot in this past weekend’s USATF Junior Olympic Region I Meet at the University of Albany (N.Y.), where he placed third in the 400 intermediates (1:00.06) and fourth in the 110 highs (17.49). The top-five finishers in each event earned an invitation to the national meet.

“When I looked at all the seeds and times, I was just hoping to get top five (and qualify) in both. That was the goal,” said Hoynoski, who will enter his junior year at Mohawk Trail Regional High School this fall. “I was actually quite surprised. I did a bit better than I expected. I was really nervous before each race because the other competitors looked really good.”

So now Hoynoski will make the trip west to compete against some of the best national athletes in his age group on the biggest stage he’s seen thus far. He said his father will accompany him on the trip.

His goal for the competition is pretty basic.

“I haven’t run my (personal best time) at JOs, so I hope to improve at nationals since there will be a lot more competition,” he said. “It will give me a better idea of where I’ll be for next year, time-wise.”

Hoynoski, the son of Kim and Chris Hoynoski, has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover some of the expenses for the trip. To make a donation, click on the sports category and type Athletes Junior Olympics Trip To CA in the search engine.