Track and Field: Athlete Highlight

Washington-bound senior aims for low-40-seconds time in 300 hurdles — something done just twice before

Kapiolani Coleman knows what it’s like to be the best.

The Cathedral Catholic High School senior won the state 300-meter hurdles a year ago, clocking a best time of 42.19. She then transitioned to volleyball, where she was part of the Dons team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation, going 42-0, losing just one set all season.

Now she’s back on the track. On Saturday, the University of Washington signee will take on a loaded hurdle field in the Mt. Carmel Invitational, the section’s biggest invitational of the season.

Coleman is entered in both the 100-meter hurdles and her signature event, the 300 hurdles, where some of the state’s fastest runners will be taking dead aim at her.

“Having a target on my back is good. I love competition,” said Coleman, who ran her first hurdle races of the season last weekend in the Falcon Invitational at Torrey Pines, winning the 100s in 14.33 seconds before deciding to drop the 300s. “Competition helps me improve.”

There should be plenty of opportunity to improve in both races.

Her main competition in the 300 should come from Torrey Pines’ Karina Janik who a year ago clocked at 42.38 and finished third in the state championships. Janik’s twin sister Dominika wasn’t far back at 43.38, placing seventh in the state.

Karina Janik is the current state leader at 44.25. Included in the field at Mt. Carmel is Long Beach Wilson’s Kayla Edwards, who had a PR of 43.16, Vista Murrieta’s Samarra Blake (44.73) and J.W. North’s Breija Spencer (44.77).

“My goal for the 300s is the low-40s or better,” said Coleman, fully aware that only two girls have ever run that fast — current 400 hurdles world record-holder Sydney McLaughlin, who ran 38.90 at the Arcadia Invitational while a student at Union Catholic Regional High in Scotch Plains, New Jersey in 2017; and state record-bearer Lashinda Demus of Long Beach Wilson, who ran 39.98 in 2001.

“Last year I improved 3 seconds, so I don’t see why I can’t improve another 2. This year I’m not going to hold back like I did last year. I plan to sprint the whole race. First, I want the school record.”

That would also be the section record as Cathedral Catholic’s Dani Johnson clocked a time of 41.30 seconds in 2015.

“I want to improve every week and do whatever it takes to win,” said Coleman, who at 5-foot-9 has a height advantage on most competitors. “I have to trust in myself and maybe be a little more selfish. Last year I long jumped to score points for the team, but I’ve dropped that event.”

She will, however, continue to run a leg on the Dons’ 4×400 relay team.

Her shorter hurdle race comes early in the meet while the 4×400 relay is the last event in a track meet.

Coleman wants to run the longer distance on the relay to make her hurdle races appear shorter.

A year ago, the San Diego Section produced three of the best hurdlers in the state, led Scripps Ranch’s Aaliyah McCormick’s 13.41. Coleman finished third in the 100-meter hurdles at the state meet after running a best of 14.05.

Good, but not good enough.

“I want to break 14 seconds,” Coleman said.

Providing the push Saturday will be another San Diegan, sophomore Anisa Bowen-Fontenot, who clocked a 14.95 last season and has already run a 14.60 at the La Jolla Viking Relays, the No. 7 mark in the state overall and No. 6 with a legal wind.

Long Beach Wilson provides the biggest challengers outside the section in MaNia Tidwell (15.24) and Kaylan Edwards (15.26), a quality 1-2 punch.

Coleman said the experience with the volleyball team helped her mentally for track season.

“Being No. 1 in the nation was great,” she said. “Losing just one set all year was special. But I also started getting ready for this track season earlier — in October — and by adding lifting weights, running farther and working on my speed, I’m way ahead of a year ago.”

For a measuring stick, she ran a 42.88 at Mt. Carmel a year ago. Anything faster would be a bonus.

Brand is a freelance writer / SDUT