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Gray sets the bar high

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? - Bob Gray returned to David Douglas High where he has been on staff for nearly two decades
by: David Ball Bob Gray poses with a hurdle at the David Douglas track where he has spent the last 18 years as a teacher at his alma mater.

They say that records are meant to be broken, and in Oregon's track and field 6A state meet record book, that couldn't be more true. Of the 17 events that take place every year, ten contain records broken since 2000 including an astonishing three records that fell in 2011 alone.

For David Douglas alumni Bob Gray, however, the feeling of watching your record get broken still hasn't happened. Gray is the current record holder in the 110-meter hurdles, where he ran a time of 13.77 seconds in 1988.

To put that in perspective, no other division boasts a time under 14.1 seconds.

For Gray, it was clear very early on that running was going to be his thing when at age 12 he owned the national record in the 50-meter hurdles.

'I remember coming home and asking my neighbors if I had gotten the state record, and they were like, 'No, you got the national record,'' Gray said.

In addition to his state meet record in the 110 hurdles, Gray also has the second fastest time in the 300 hurdles and was part of the eighth (4 x 100 meters) and eleventh (4 x 400 meters) fastest relays in state history.

Despite his amazing success at the high school level, Gray had yet to receive an offer from the University of Oregon, so he had spent his time looking elsewhere.

'I was geared toward Wyoming, Washington or Florida until Oregon came through at the last minute after I broke state record five times my senior year,' Gray recalls, 'I always wanted to be a duck but I didn't think I was good enough and they weren't known for sprinters or hurdlers back then so when they came through I was shocked.'

The biggest shift for Gray upon reaching the collegiate level was the increased height of the hurdles, which caused some problems for the smaller Gray. The 'high hurdles' are three inches taller when athletes move out of preps, while the longer hurdle race went from 300 meters to 400 meters.

Luckily for the Ducks, none of this was a problem.

As just a freshman, Gray took fourth place in the pac-10 in the 110-meter high hurdles and was part of the 4x100 meter relay team that set the school record. Over the next three years, Gray would set one other school record (110 hurdles) on his way to a second place finish at nationals, earn two All-American honors, earn one individual conference title, and one team conference title. Gray was also a two-time first-team Academic All-American as well.

As for his records, both have been broken, but he still remains near the top. His 110-meter hurdle time currently sits fourth in school history, while is 400-meter hurdle time is second, and his 4x100 meter relay time sits third.

Throughout the course of college, Gray realized that he was actually much better at the 400-meter hurdles than he was at the high hurdles and during his senior year he ranked among the top-50 fastest time in the world.

'I was about the same the next year after college, but that doesn't do anything because if I was a football player or basketball player I would have made a lot of money, but unfortunately track doesn't work that way,' Gray said.

After two years running for Nike, Gray decided it was time to hang up the spikes after he had earned his teaching certificate from Oregon. Gray has spent the past 18 years teaching French at David Douglas, while raising his 14-year-old nephew Sam and serving as the teaching union president.

Gray did spend some time coaching at the high-school level but eventually gave it up as he now spends his time with individual athletes occasionally.

'My strength is taking those athletes who are good and could be great, but just need a little bit of tweaking,' Gray said.

Fortunately for Gray he speaks from experience when he tells people about being great.