Houston, TX: March 14, 2009— When Marc J. Harrison, Head Women’s Track & Field Coach for the University of the District of Columbia, shut down the Indoor Team’s season for twenty days, it came as a shock to the team members. “That got our attention,” said freshman Kaneesha Hollis (Greensboro, MD/North Caroline H.S.). “He was simply trying to get us to focus on the season.”
After lackluster performances at earlier meets, Coach Harrison’s strategy worked, as the team dropped 10 seconds off their time moving from 4:03 to 3:53, but they still failed to qualify to compete in the NCAA Championships during the Kent State Tune-up, finishing in 12th place. Coach Harrison impressed upon them the importance of doing their best at the upcoming NYU Invitational on February 27, and they did not disappoint, dropping their time to 3:51 and qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championship. This was the first, ever, UDC Relay Team to qualify for the National Championships.
Arriving at the NCAA Championships held in Houston, Texas, March 12-14, 2009, each member of the relay team knew their roles and were ready to give it their best. What they did not expect was an injury to their teammate Stellah Sang (Kapsabet, Kenya), which occurred 600m into her 800m race, and caused her to drop from 2nd to 8th place, still making her an All-American, but taking her out of the 4x400 relay. In stepped sophomore Erica Nixon (Bronx, NY/Cardinal Spell H.S.).
Erica’s designated role going in to the nationals was to be the alternate in case a member of the relay team was unable to compete. However, she was not expecting to be called upon to play that role. “I was so nervous when Coach Harrison informed me of Stellah’s injury and that I had to run the first leg of the race,” said Nixon. “I gave it my best and am happy with the outcome”.
Sophomore Saleena Greene (St. Catherine, Jamaica/St. Andrews H. S.) ran the second leg. She stated, “I didn’t realize it was going to happen (qualify for the Championships), and when it did, I was shocked that we were the No. 7 team going into the finals.”
For freshmen Latoya Allen (Washington, DC/Dunbar H.S.) it was an exciting and somewhat overwhelming event. “As a freshman I was happy—but it didn’t hit me until we arrived the Championships that we had actually qualified. We were among the youngest relay teams there, and the first one from UDC to qualify for the nationals. I knew that I had to push myself.”
Allen went on to say…”I was not originally on the 4 x 400 team going into Kent State. I expressed to my coaches that I wanted to run the 4x4. I ran the 300m for the first time and placed 3rd. As a result, our coaches saw my confidence and hard work, and put faith in me. We set the standards for the rest of the team and are committed to make the nationals, again, next year.”
Kaneesha Hollis, a freshman from Greensboro, MD/ North Caroline H.S., became the crowd favorite as she ran the anchor leg. She passed two other teams to finish in second place in the heat, as the crowd cheered her on. Hollis stated, “It was an honor to simply qualify for the nationals and I was extremely nervous, but after the first lap I turned it on get the second place finish.”
The trip to the Championships yielded much fruit for the UDC 4x400 Relay Team.