Northern Illinois senior Roneisha Frye’s key to improvement in the 100-meter hurdles this year was simple: Just relax.
In an event that relies so much on timing and precision, over-excitement or apprehension can lead to mistakes that can cost a runner valuable tenths of seconds.
“I used to be a little nervous and didn’t reach my full potential,” Frye said. “Whenever you’re tense, the smallest mistake can mess up your whole race. You just have to relax and run. You don’t think about all of the mechanics you do in practice, because at the race you just want to go fast.”
After just missing last season, the NIU senior qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Round in the 100 hurdles and the 4x100 relay. The meet runs from today to Saturday in Austin, Texas.
Frye does have experience at the NCAA prelims. Last season, she qualified with the 4x100 team. Frye, Chanel Kellyman and Rasheta Butler return from that team, and they’ll be joined by junior Janay Mitchell, who also qualified in the 100 and 200 meters.
The four events in which the Huskies will participate are a program high.
Mitchell missed most of last season, her first with the Huskies after transferring from Seton Hall, because of a back injury.
“The goal was just to get back healthy again,” Mitchell said. “I’m very happy that I was able to conquer my injury and make all of these major improvements as well.”
Mitchell said extra work in the weight room was the key to her ability to come back. But coach Connie Teaberry thinks there was a mental side to the junior’s comeback.
“Sometimes after an injury, students will lose focus and lose belief in themselves,” Teaberry said.
“I think she’s always been a confident runner. It’s almost like you’ve got to prove to yourself that you can do this, that everything’s OK, that I can still push the envelope and I won’t hurt myself again is the sign of a great athlete.”
Mitchell isn’t completely foreign to the NCAA prelims. Though she hasn’t competed at the meet, she qualified with the 4x400 team at Seton Hall during her freshman year before an injury kept her out of the meet.
She has strengthened the already-strong 4x100 team that hopes to finish in the top 12 to make it to the NCAA Championships, which takes place June 6-9.
Seeded 18th, the team will face an uphill battle. But Teaberry thinks the experience the team brings into the meet can carry them through.
“It’s a huge advantage for the relay,” Teaberry said.
“We’ve got four veterans who are used to competing at this level. It’s a huge advantage that the ladies have been here before. Now, they’re just ready to run.”