The Wichita State track and field coaches were on the brink of redshirting Nikki Larch-Miller for this outdoor season, but decided to hold off because they thought she might be the piece they need to win the Missouri Valley Coference.
That decision is looking good after the KT Woodman Classic, as Larch-Miller capped a tremendous week with a win in the 100-meter hurdles in 13.54 seconds and a runner-up finish in the 200 at 24.25 on a blusterous Saturday afternoon at Cessna Stadium.
Earlier in the week, Larch-Miller won the heptathlon with a personal-best 5,281 points.
“We felt like she was the missing piece,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said. “We have a really nice women’s team, and she’s the cherry on top. She is just a marvelous athlete that we’re hoping will push us over the top, in terms of winning the Missouri Valley.”
Before coming to WSU, Larch-Miller, a sophomore from San Diego, had never run a hurdle race. She excelled in the open sprints in high school, but has thrived at WSU in the heptathlon, a seven-event challenge that includes a 100-meter hurdles race.
After extensive training, Larch-Miller excels in the high hurdles as an open event, evident by her victory on Saturday, with her twin sister Taylor coming in second place.
“Hurdles are a lot more than just your natural ability to sprint,” Nikki said. “You have to work on form and practice day-in and day-out. Being good at something that requires that kind of technique is pretty special.”
After placing sixth in the heptathlon at last season’s MVC championship, Larch-Miller is poised to compete for the title in her second season. And while her times from Saturday are discarded due to windy conditions, she figures to be capable of scoring points in open events like the 200 and 100 hurdles as well.
Every point she can gain for WSU is crucial, as the team learned last season when it lost to Indiana State by 1 1/2 point for the outdoor crown.
Knowing her coaches are counting on her, Larch-Miller wants to be the difference.
“I want to be there for my team, and I’m going to help them get a championship,” Larch-Miller said. “That’s why I didn’t redshirt. It definitely motivates you to do better, not just for yourself, but for your team.”
Duvall domination — The track at Cessna Stadium has been pretty good to Jonathan Duvall lately.
After repeating as a high school state champion in both hurdle races last spring for Garden City, Duvall, now a Shocker freshman, continued the good string by posting the Missouri Valley’s best time in the 400 hurdles with his winning time of 52.77 on Saturday.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into college, so it’s a huge surprise to be No. 1 in the conference as a freshman,” Duvall said. “I’m pretty shocked.”
Duvall has mastered the transition from running the 300 hurdles race in high school to the slightly longer race in college with the hurdles raised three inches. It’s one that usually takes a season to adjust to, but Duvall has surprised even the WSU coaches with how well he’s done.
“It’s so difficult to make that transition and he’s just been awesome,” Rainbolt said. “It’s remarkable what he’s doing right now.”
Duvall said the biggest difference was the stretch after clearing the final hurdle. In high school, he was used to being close to the finish line after the last hurdle.
Now he has to dig down.
“That last 100 is just brutal,” Duvall said. “You definitely have to push yourself a lot more in that race.”
The windy conditions on Saturdaymade the race even more strategic for Duvall. He had to pick and choose when to bust it and when to accept running into the wind.
Evident by his personal-best time, Duvall is quickly becoming a veteran in the event.
“Coming into that home stretch, it was really windy,” Duvall said. “I definitely wanted to take advantage of the back stretch, where the wind was at my back, to make up for the home stretch. I think I did that and that’s what really helped me out and why I ran a 52 today, instead of the 53s I had been running.”
Saturday’s Event Winners
100—David Winters, Barton County, 10.16. 200—Jerrell Hancock, Minnesota State, 20.86. 400—Alfred Larry, Butler, 47.02. 800—Dean Cronin, Iowa Central, 1:55.33. 110 hurdles—Chris Caldwell, Iowa Central, 13.69. 400 hurdles—Jonathan Duvall, Wichita State, 52.77. 400 relay—Iowa Western 41.49. 400 shuttle hurdle relay—Minnesota State 1:00.18. 1600 relay—Oklahoma Baptist 3:13.09. High jump—Xaivier McAllister, Iowa Central, 7-1. Pole vault—Lex Parsons, Wichita State, 15-9¼. Long jump—Jerry Westerfield, Iowa Central, 25-2½. Triple jump—Latario Collie-Minns, Iowa Western, 56-2. Hammer throw—Chris Cralle, Shocker Track Club, 227-11. Shot put—Christopher Reed, Minnesota State, 58-0¼.
100—Destiny Carter, Iowa Central, 11.39. 200—Jura Levy, Oklahoma Baptist, 23.38. 400—Jessica James, Iowa Central, 56.08. 800—Hannah Helker, Oklahoma Baptist, 2:15.19. 100 hurdles—Nikki Larch-Miller, Wichita State, 13.54. 400 hurdles—Natalie Morerod, Wichita State, 1:00.42. 400 relay—Iowa Central 46.34. 400 shuttle hurdle relay—Wichita State (Emily Doffing, Breanne Borman, Cassidy Downing, Taylor Larch-Miller) 1:00.34. 1600 relay—Wichita State (Gavyn Yetter, Taylor Thomas, Kiara Giles, Natalie Morerod) 3:49.01. High jump—Lacey Rhodes, Central Oklahoma, 5-10. Pole vault—Taylor Swanson, Cloud County, 12-8¼. Long jump—Peyton Weiss, Emporia State, 20-1. Triple jump—Shanice Andrews, Wichita State, 41-10½. Hammer throw—Chandra Andrews, Shocker Track Club, 189-9. Shot put—Jennifer Maag, Hastings, 47-9. Discus—Jennifer Maag, Hastings, 158-8.