St. James standout hopes to improve for Tiger senior season as well as prepare for college.

The work that Richard Byfield is doing this summer figures to help the St. James High School track team next school year, as well as his own future collegiate asperations.

Byfield, who will be a senior at St. James High in the 2014-15 school year, will compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games track and field meet next week on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

He qualified for the AAU Junior Olympic Games in the 400-meter hurdles through a qualifier held at St. Louis’ University City High last month.

At the University City qualifier Byfield finished third in his heat and seventh overall in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:01.25 - good enough to advance to the nationals.

He will be leaving Sunday for the Junior Olympic Games and is slated to compete in the prelims on Monday. The pre-finals and finals in the event are scheduled for later in the week.

Byfield is running unattached.

“It’s exciting,” Byfield said. “I’ve never run a 400-meter hurdle race (before this summer). We never do the full race in practice. All summer I’ve been running 200s to train for the 400.”

Byfield was a standout in the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles for the St. James High Tiger track squad this past season. In addition, he was a member of the Tigers’ Missouri Class 3 Track and Field State Championship qualifying 4x400-meter relay team.

However, in college track hurdlers run 400 meters instead of 300.

He hopes to be a college track competitor, and Byfield feels this will be a big help to him for the transition from high school to college.

“I was on our 4-by-4 (relay) team that made state,” Byfield said. “I feel better in the 400-meter hurdles than the 300. I felt the last 100 meters is where I really pulled ahead.

“For my senior year (in high school), having this 400 work helps. I hope to run a :50 or :49 400 split for the 4x4 next year. I was at :51.2 last year. That would really help us out.”

“That’s huge,” said St. James High School Joe Campbell said of Byfield’s Junior Olympic qualification. “I did the same thing, running the Junior Olympics my junior year. It really helped in college. I suspect Richard will transition well. He may not see results this summer, but he’ll see it next spring.”

“Absolutely,” Campbell said when asked if Byfield’s work in the 400 hurdles this summer will carry over to next spring. “He’s already started training for next year. Usually kids show up in March and start (the high school track season). Hopefully this will be contagious and other kids will want to do the same.”

In fact, with a solid core of track athletes currently in the system, along with the new track facility St. James High has added this year, Campbell is hopeful of starting a summer track club next year for St. James and other area track athletes.

Byfield said he knows little of the competition he’s going to see at Drake.

“I just know at our regional meet I was the only kid not in a Class 4 school,” he said. “I’m going for time. I want to run at S&T in college. And coach (Campbell) told me if I run :58 or :57 that’d be a good time to start college with. It’d be nice to have that time to show college coaches.

“That’s my goal; it’s kind of a big jump but I think I can do it. The first time I ran the 300 (hurdles) it was :48, and the second time it was :45, so I think I can (drop three seconds in the 400).”