Mount Mercy's Higgins Narrowly Misses Javelin Finals
By Sam Louwagie (Story) and Scott Saville (Video), Reporters
DES MOINES, Iowa An 84-degree heat settled over the Drake Stadium track on Thursday night. But that didn't stop Shalane Flanagan from getting off to a blazing start in the women's 10,000-meter final.
"It was actually hot and windy, which seems like an oxymoron," she said after winning the race with a stadium-record time of 31:43.20. "But we wanted to establish a presence, and let people know we weren't messing around."
Flanagan separated from the pack within the first few laps, and began lapping other runners midway through the race. The Olympic bronze medalist cruised to a spot on the U.S. team at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow.
"It's important to me," she said. "Winning national titles is important. It's a step toward the next level, the next goal. I like winning national titles."
But Flanagan admitted this one wasn't so much fun.
"I felt it," she said of the heat. "I traditionally like to finish races strong. But this was one of those survival races, where I was like, 'Can we just get to the end?'"
Galen Rupp, of team Nike, won the men's race in 28:47.32.
A pair of Iowa State seniors, Meaghan Nelson and Dani Stack, placed 11th and 13th, respectively. Stack said she ad been through a "rocky season" while dealing with an undiagnosed stress fracture. She was hoping to finish near 33 minutes flat. But her 34:13.56 finish time didn't discourage her.
"It was a great experience," Stack said. "The collegiate level has really progressed in the last couple of years, so it kind of felt like just another event but with the big guns."
Another local athlete competed with the big guns on Thursday. Jenna Higgins came just 25 inches short of reaching the finals of the women's senior javelin throw.
"So close," she said. "And that's what hurts the most."
Higgins was a two-time NAIA national champion with Mount Mercy. On Thursday, she found herself competing in the same grouping as Olympian Brittany Borman and American record-holder Kara Patterson. Borman won the event with a throw of 199 feet, 10 inches. Patterson took third with a 183-4 toss.
"Compared to the NAIA, it's a huge jump," Higgins said. "There's more competition. They're professionals, and it was exciting to be able to throw with competitors like them."
After two throws that appeared to hang too much in the wind, Higgins launched a 162-footer that, for a moment, moved her into seventh place out of the 13 qualifiers. The top eight reach the final round. But Paige Blackburn and Heather Bergmann bested that throw, knocking the Eldridge, Iowa native from the finals.
"Obviously it's disappointing," she said. "You wish you could've thrown just a little bit farther... But it gives me more motivation to possibly come back next year. I was just meant to get ninth and feel the fire."