Saturday, March 2 was a day of “firsts” for sophomore middle distance runner Hillary Harris, the proud new owner of the USF school record in the 400 meter race. Harris, an environmental studies major from Hillsboro, Ore., not only collected her first collegiate record, but did so in her first time running the event at the college level. Typically an 800m runner, she was using the 400m race as a training tool to prepare for her primary event.
“I didn’t use blocks or anything, and everyone else was, and I kind of showed up to the track a little bit late so I was in a hurry and stressed out. But it just made me run faster I guess,” Harris said.
The 20-year-old crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 57.30 seconds, defeating the previous record of 58.76s (set by Aly Drake in 2010) by more than a second.
“I was viewing it more like training,” Harris said. “I wasn’t actually that nervous — I get a lot more nervous for the 800, because it’s like, my baby.”
Having had little experience with the 400m open and none at the college level, Harris, although already a record-holder, has yet to find her true “stride” in terms of strategy for the one-lap race.
“It [the Stanford race] was the fastest 400 I’ve ever run, but I can run faster. I don’t really know the best strategy for the 400 yet.”
While it is a new experience to be a collegiate record holder, Harris is used to finding her name at the top of the record lists — she holds the fastest times for the 400m and 800m at Glencoe High School in Oregon. She hopes to add that 800m record to her accomplishments here at USF, and considering that her personal best is a mere 0.5 seconds away from the current record of 2.06.13, it seems likely that she will soon fill the top slot in the record books for both events.
Aside from conquering the 800m record, Harris has another goal for this season, and an even more ambitious one set for her career at USF.
“I want to make it to Regionals in the 800,” Harris said. “And hopefully by the time I graduate, yes, I will make it to Nationals.”
Breaking records isn’t at all a new thing for sophomore Laticia Lonon, USF’s sole female thrower. Lonon has been throwing the discus since high school, and arrived to San Francisco in 2011 having already accomplished greater distances than the school’s discus record at the time. On March 2 at the Stanford Open in Palo Alto, Calif., Lonon bested her own record of 39.91m, set last April, with a 40.00m toss.
“I had been doing decently well in practice, I was like ‘I’m going to hit this 40 meters, the 40 meter club’ — that was like, my thing. I had set a new record for myself at the very end of last season that was around 39 meters, so I decided I would hit 40 and then I hit is exactly,” Lonon said.
The 19-year-old from Santee, Calif. was seeded last out of the five girls competing in the discus event. Her 40.00 meter throw ended up being good enough for fourth place.
“I was seeded last, fifth, so I was like ‘okay, I’m just going to do me,’” Lonon said. “I actually think I do better in those kinds of situations, with lower pressure. I’m just going to…do what I know I can do and not worry about anyone else.”
As the Dons only female thrower, Lonon looks forward to getting a chance to represent USF at the West Coast Conference meet. Her goal for the season is to qualify for the meet, which would mean increasing her personal best to 145 feet, or 44 meters.
It seems like kind of a big jump, but based on my practices I think I could do it this season.”
She set her sights even higher for the rest of her college track career.
“The ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA regionals. I’d probably have to throw 150 or 155 feet [45-47m]. That’s definitely like a long term goal, by the end of senior year,” Lonon said.
With her stress fracture of last season fully healed and just one warm-up meet in her event under her belt this season, sophomore sprinter Kamilah Davis easily triumphed over the five-year old University of San Francisco 200 meter record. The San Jose, Calif. native bested the previous record or 26.03 seconds, set by Brianna Junior in 2008, with her 25.97s finish two weeks ago on a hot and sunny day at the UC Davis Aggie Open in Davis, Calif. This is the first time she has held a record in her four year long track career.
“Before the run I was actually kind of tired and sleepy…I was kind of surprised [to have broken the record],” Davis said.
Davis finished first in her heat and fifth overall, her highest finish in collegiate competition. After a tough year of adjustments and injury last season, Davis hopes to see some rapid progress this season and eventually surpass her best times from her prep career at Archbishop Mitty High School.
“In high school I had been running mid 25s, but my freshman year here was pretty bad, I had been running pretty slow,” Davis said. “Adjusting to the different training and weight lifting set me back a lot.”
Breaking records will likely be a more frequent occurrence for Davis as the season progresses. If all goes as planned, she will shave almost half a second off her current time in order to qualify for the West Coast Conference meet.
“My goal is to beat it again, hopefully next week,” Davis said.“The conference mark is 25.5 [seconds], so I’m going to shoot for that, or maybe a little bit faster.”