Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Anything can happen in the 10th of a second it takes to blink an eye.
Translating to track and field terms — more specifically, Chris Douglas terms — a 10th of a second (0.1) is a long time. Consider this: on back-to-back days at the NCAA West Preliminary in Sacramento, California, Douglas, a junior for the University of Iowa, qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 400-meter hurdles and 110 hurdles by a combined .04 seconds.
You can’t come close to blinking an eye in four-100ths of a second.
“It is a tribute to him being a competitor and fighting for every last 10th of a second to make it through,” said Joey Woody, director of track and field for the University of Iowa.
Here’s a summary of Douglas’s weekend at Hornet Stadium: On May 24, he finished fifth in his eight-person heat of the 400 hurdles; his time of 51.07 seconds moved him to a quarterfinal round as one of six qualifiers by time. The next day he finished third in his heat of the 110 hurdles (13.99 seconds) to automatically advance to a quarterfinal.
Douglas positioned himself for an interesting final two days in Sacramento.
Three hours after his first-round race in the 110 hurdles, Douglas set his blocks for a 400 hurdle quarterfinal. The top three from each of the six quarterfinal heats, plus the next three best times, would move on to a semifinal in Eugene, Oregon, on June 6. Douglas crossed the line in fifth in the second heat with a time of 50.70 seconds. Since a fourth-place hurdler from the first heat and second heat had faster times than Douglas, he had to sweat it out and make sure no one from the final heat bettered his performance.
When the official times were posted, Douglas secured the 12th and final qualifying spot; Nebraska senior Andrew Neal was first out with a time of 50.71.
“Coming down the home stretch I was right next to a guy and we pretty much went over the last hurdle at the same time,” Douglas said. “I told myself I have to beat this guy — you have to beat everyone you can.
“When I saw my time, it was a couple 10ths off my PR, so I wasn’t too happy because it was really competitive to go to nationals this year in the West in the 400 hurdles. I watched the third heat and saw that the fourth guy was slower than me, so I knew I had a chance. I looked at the scoreboard and saw I was No. 12 and I beat the 13th guy by .01 of a second. It shows you always have to go attack the line because you never know what will happen.”
Douglas had more wiggle room in the 110 hurdles than he did in the 400 hurdles. He finished fifth in the first heat in 13.88 seconds. Douglas waited for results of the second heat. Then the third heat. He advanced to the NCAA Championships in the 11th position; finishing in the unlucky No. 13 spot was Tyler Guillory of Texas A&M with a time of 13.91 — .03 slower than Douglas.
“It’s more suspenseful when you’re a time qualifier, especially in the first heat, because I had to watch heats two and three,” Douglas said. “It is a great feeling overall knowing I’m going to Eugene to run both hurdle events.”
Douglas was seeded 13th in both events at the West Preliminary, which on paper would be the first non-qualifier.
Last season, with good reason, Douglas passed completely on the West Preliminary. While the Hawkeyes were competing in Austin, Texas, Douglas was putting his computer science major to use in Mountain View, California, with an internship at Google. Woody wasn’t going to get in his way.
“That is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Woody said. “I felt like it was going to set him up for the rest of his life, so you can’t take that away from somebody.”
Douglas, a native of Deerfield, Illinois, will return to Google this summer, but after the NCAA Championships conclude June 9. Both of his hurdle semifinals are June 6, the first day of competition. The 110 hurdles are at 7:32 p.m. (CT) and the 400 hurdles are at 8:30 p.m. (CT).
“I am going to train this next week and a half and then go out there, run my heart out, and give it all I have,” Douglas said.
He understands the season could be over in the blink of an eye.