LAWRENCE — Maize senior Miles Ukaoma looks forward to competing in the spotlight and against the best competition.
So on a cool, gusty day at the Kansas Relays, he managed to stand out despite turning out what he described as sub-par performances.
Ukaoma was the No. 1 qualifier in the 400-meter boys preliminaries and his time of 49.69 set the standard Friday morning at Kansas' Memorial Stadium. However, in critiquing himself, Ukaoma easily found room for improvement.
"It's pretty cool being one of the top racers, but I've still got to go out tomorrow and run a good race," said Ukaoma, who has signed to run for Nebraska. "It's not like it's guaranteed or anything. Hopefully I can come out tomorrow and run a better race than I ran today."
Ukaoma said it was the beginning of the race that threw him off course, but he plans on adjusting for today's final.
"It was really slow. Hopefully tomorrow I can get out really fast in my (first) 200 meters," Ukaoma said. "I want to get out really fast in my 200 and try to hit 21 or 22 seconds and see if I can get into the 47s. That's my goal."
Maize coach Jerrod Handy broke down Ukaoma's performance and added that he will need to push the tempo in today's race.
"In the 400, he really didn't get out very fast. The first 200 was kind of slow for what he needs to run," Handy said. "I think tomorrow, he will be a whole lot more aggressive coming up in that first 200 and he will run a lot better time."
Handy knows that the Kansas Relays are an important checkpoint for Ukaoma's season.
"I think it's kind of important that you compete at a meet this level just to see the type of athletes that are out there," Handy said. "I think it just raises your game so much when you go against top quality all-around athletes."
Ukaoma also competed in the 110-meter high hurdles and finished second, running a 14.79. His showing wasn't what he or his coach were looking for timewise, but he was a top qualifier.
"In the 110 meter high hurdles we didn't have a good warm up session because we kind of got here late," Handy said, "but he was able to get enough (of a) warmup in to get qualified, I guess."