By DARREN MILLER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Noah Larrison had a track-side view of the first heat of the men’s 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA West Preliminary on Thursday at Hornet Stadium.
Larrison, a University of Iowa senior, watched the race unfold and saw senior teammate Chris Douglas finish runner-up in 51.02 seconds and freshman teammate Raymonte Dow come in fifth in 51.35 seconds.
“I was watching them as we were sitting in the tent getting ready (for the third heat) and thinking, ‘Wow, Chris looks like he is chilling throughout the first 300 (meters), Monte looks like he is flying, and these guys are sitting pretty.”
After the second heat concluded, another thought came to Larrison as he set the blocks in lane five.
“All right, it’s all on me,” he thought. “I have to get my job done now.”
Larrison placed fourth in his heat with a season-best time of 51.27 and like Dow, was an at-large qualifier to Friday’s quarterfinal.
The 24-person, three-heat quarterfinal begins at 9:15 p.m. (CT). All three Hawkeyes will be in heat two: Larrison in lane one, Douglas in lane six, and Dow in lane eight. The top three in each heat and the three next best times move on to the NCAA Championships from June 6-9 in Austin, Texas.
“I was struggling this whole season,” Larrison said. “Before this, I ran my season-best in my first meet (51.49 at the Florida Relays on March 28). That was frustrating not being able to replicate that again.
“In the Big Ten final (May 13) was where I finally got back to that (placing fifth in 51.64). That was a big confidence booster and that’s when I realized I run my best when I’m relaxed and having fun.”
It was certainly a fun beginning to the NCAA West Preliminary for the Hawkeye hurdlers. The first heat featured one of Iowa’s veterans in Douglas, the Big Ten champion, and Dow, a freshman making his first postseason run.
“We worked hard to get here, so all we have to do is execute at this point,” Dow said. “I looked at it as another race. We have come out and competed all year. That’s all there is to it at the end of the day. Just do what I know I can do.”
Douglas had the second-fastest seed time in his heat, so he wasn’t too anxious at the start knowing that the top three placewinners automatically advance to the quarterfinals. He was the lone automatic qualifier among the Hawkeyes.
“I went out there and ran a smooth race,” Douglas said. “Coming home I saved a lot of energy for the very end and I used it coming off the last hurdle.”
Douglas has been here before. Last season in the NCAA West Preliminary at Hornet Stadium, he was 20th heading into the quarterfinals after running 51.07 in the first round. He advanced to the NCAA Championships in the 12th position with a clocking of 50.70.
“Everyone always runs faster on Day 2,” Douglas said. “But I know what my race strategy is going to be, so I will go out and execute it. I’m going to go out and execute the race and things should turn out well.”
Douglas was a two-time NCAA Championships hurdle qualifier last year. He will be one of three Hawkeyes in a 110-meter hurdle preliminary Friday at 7 p.m.