May 31, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- When the third quarterfinal heat of the women's 400-meter hurdles boiled down to a 40-meter foot race to the finish line Friday at the NCAA West Preliminary, University of Iowa sophomore MonTayla Holder figured she had a shot.
"I knew it would be a foot race after the last hurdle and I had to trust my training," said Holder, a native of Indianapolis. "I can beat anybody in a foot race, at least that's what I believe."
Holder ran 58.19-seconds at John McDonnell Field and placed third in the heat behind Janeil Bellille of Texas A&M (55.41) and Amalie Iuel of Southern California (58.10). The top three from each heat automatically advanced to the NCAA Final Round from June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon. The late burst by Holder kept Pac-12 champion Jaide Stepter of Southern California from moving on with a time of 58.30.
"I didn't realize that I had made it," Holder said. "So when I saw MonTayla Holder (projected on the scoreboard) I almost cried."
Holder was in lane 2, a position she didn't consider ideal, but it allowed her to keep an eye on Bellille in lane 5.
"She is a really good athlete and she has run 55 (seconds) before," Holder said. "That's what I was going after."
Holder now has another opportunity in Oregon to better her career-best time of 57.81 set May 18 at the Big Ten Conference Championships.
"Just because I'm a sophomore doesn't mean I can't compete (in Eugene)," Holder said. "I'm going to show people I can do this. We're going to work on the hurdles, tighten it up, work on the training, get a little more conditioning in, and I'm ready to run 56 seconds."
The women's triple jump final was winding down about the time the 400 hurdles were completed. Things didn't look too hot for UI senior Zinnia Miller, who was sitting 14th in the competition after five attempts. Miller knew only the top 12 would move on to the NCAA Finals and she knew she was down to her last jump.
"I had to fire myself up because I was a little tired from (Thursday in the long jump)," Miller said. "On the last jump I said here we go...and boom. I took off the board, it felt good, I kept going and going, I finished it, and that was the jump."
The result was a distance of 41 feet, 11 ½ inches -- one inch from a personal best -- and it vaulted Miller from 14th to seventh place.
A day earlier in the long jump, Miller turned in her best effort on the first attempt. She saved her best for last Friday.
"It's crazy that it was the last jump, but I'm still happy," Miller said. "It makes me realize I have more talent than sometimes I think I do. I'm glad to be able to express it nationally. I am very, very proud of that."
It will be an early, long, and busy Saturday for the Hawkeyes at the NCAA West Preliminary. Seniors Ashlyn Gulvas and Jasmine Simpson, and junior Annemie Smith compete in the women's hammer throw beginning at 10 a.m. (CT). The UI women's 4x400-meter relay is scheduled for a 9:45 p.m. start.