Newport Harbor's Emma Kratzberg is one of the top hurdlers in the county and is close to breaking a count record held by former teammate Hope Bender.

Newport Harbor's Kratzberg makes O.C. record her next target


One day soon, they will all be memories.

For the moment, Newport Harbor’s Emma Kratzberg is in the midst of making them.

Her track and field postseason begins with the CIF-SS Division 2 Prelims at Moorpark High on Saturday. For the next four weeks, eyes will be peeled in her direction as she attempts to make history in the 300-meter hurdles.

The senior set a personal record of 42.34 seconds in her premier event at the Sunset League Finals last week. She is trying to best the Orange County record of 42.18 seconds, which was set by her former teammate, Hope Bender, in the prelims for the CIF State Meet last June.

“I have definitely been working towards that 42.18,” Kratzberg said. “(At the Sunset League Finals), I kind of just said, ‘OK, today is the first day that you’re going to try for it.’

“It was close, but not quite. Hopefully, this weekend I’ll be able to do it. That would be awesome.”

Bender, who now runs at UC Santa Barbara, has been watching her former teammate’s success from afar. Having just set the county record last year, Bender said it would be sad to see it broken, but it hasn’t been hard for her to root for a “really close friend.”

“We’ve definitely kept in touch,” Bender said of Kratzberg. “I just try to be as supportive as possible. I want her to run as fast as she possibly can.

“She’s worked really hard for this. She’s put in four years of hurdling, and I think she deserves this.”

It might seem like a friendly competition at this point, but that was a choice the hurdling standouts made when Kratzberg transferred from Corona del Mar before her junior year.

Kratzberg and Bender forged a close bond during a single season of working out and racing together.

“I think that’s what brought them really close, even more so than the hurdles, was being on both relays together,” Sailors coach Eric Tweit said. “There’s something about being on a team. Either you learn to be friends and help each other, to be friendly rivals, or (it’s self-destructive).”

Kratzberg remembers looking up to certain athletes when she entered high school, and she now laughs at finding herself in the other role.

“I was talking to my uncle the other day,” she said, “and I was telling him, ‘If you had told me when I was a freshman that I would be running these times and have this ranking in the state, I would have laughed at you.’

“I always think that is a funny thing.”

As a freshman, Kratzberg had several athletes she wished she could be like. When asked to name one off the top of her head, the Newport Harbor star came up with Mater Dei’s Emma Radan.

Kratzberg was a three-event winner at the Orange County Championships in April. She swept the hurdles as the favorite, and set a meet record (43.03 seconds) in the 300 hurdles. Coincidentally, the record she broke (43.32) had been established by Radan in 2014.

Coming into this season, Kratzberg had an agenda. She had heard talk that people in the sport considered her one-dimensional – just a hurdler.

In her discussions with the Colorado State coaching staff, Kratzberg was told that she had to run a sub 57-second 400 to earn a scholarship. That fired her up.

In what was probably the biggest surprise of her season, she won the 400 at the Orange County Championships. Kratzberg ran the race in 55.95 seconds, defeating some of the county’s top sprinting talents, including Ashley Willingham (Los Alamitos) and Kennedy Gillian (Mission Viejo).

“When I did win (the 400) at Orange County Championships, a reporter came up to me and said, ‘How does it feel?’” Kratzberg said. “One of the first things that I said was, ‘Well, now I’ve proved that I’m not just a hurdler.’

“It definitely gives me a sense of pride. Now, I know that I’ll be able to do the 400 hurdles in college, not just the 300 hurdles.”

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