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Burlington, Iowa native beginning to stand out for Hawkeye track and field

BY KEVIN GLUECK | DECEMBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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A buzz started to form in the crowd during the Iowa track and field team’s annual Black and Gold intrasquad meet on Dec. 1.

It was hard to keep track of what is going on at the meet — shot-put balls were slamming the ground, gunshots were starting racing heats, and the public-address announcer was interviewing Director of Track and Field Larry Wieczorek.

But in the back of the room, a young Hawkeye turned heads.

Khanishah Williams was taking her turn in the high jump, an event in which she holds the Iowa High School Athletics Association’s record. She jumped 5 feet, 10 inches while at Burlington High School.

During the Black and Gold meet, Williams unofficially topped her personal mark, leaping 5 feet, 11 inches, just clearing the bar. Even though scores from the intrasquad meet don’t count officially, Williams was excited about topping her previous best.

“It was awesome,” she said. “To get a new [personal record] is always a good thing. It makes me realize how capable I can do well. I feel more confident in myself.”

Williams also won the 60-meter hurdles race that day, too, capping off a great start to the 2012-13 indoor track season.

The sophomore won state titles in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump in high school.

“She’s someone we felt was a tremendous all-around athlete when we recruited her,” Iowa women’s track and field head coach Layne Anderson said. “I’ve been watching her since she was a freshman, when she’d come here for our indoor high-school meets.”

Anderson said a background in other sports she played in high school, including volleyball, made her an attractive candidate for a scholarship. For director of recruiting and assistant coach Clive Roberts, it was very clear why he wanted Williams to attend Iowa.

“She was the best kid in the state,” Roberts said. “We at the University of Iowa thought we needed to ensure that we get the best Iowa kids to stay at home.”

Williams was able to win the high jump and 60-meter hurdles at the New Year’s Classic held in Iowa City on Jan. 14. But overall, she still struggled to stay consistent as a freshman, which disappointed her.

“It was different from high school going to college; I had to adjust to it,” Williams said. “I had knee problems, too, and it affected how I jumped. It wasn’t my best performance last year.”

This year is the first year that Williams is working closely with Roberts, who said they are working on events she had previously not competed in.

“I’m training for multi-events, and that showed me that I need to get stronger in certain parts of my body,” Williams said. “It helped my knee a lot.”

Anderson said despite some of the events being new to Williams, he believes that her natural talent will give her the opportunity to succeed at a high level.

“Khanishah has the kind of athletic ability that she can put her mind to just about anything and do it,” Anderson said. “She can excel at whatever she puts her heart into.”

At the intrasquad meet, Williams not only won two events, she also put up marks that could score for her team once real competition starts in January.

“She’s certainly doing what we would hope she would do,” Anderson said. “If she could pick a second event or multi-event points, it would be a bonus. It’s still early.”

At the Black and Gold Meet, Williams had three close attempts at the 6-foot mark, which leads Anderson to become optimistic when it comes to how high her competitive ceiling is.

“Not many women at Iowa have cleared 6 feet,” Anderson said. “Once she breaks that, it’s kind of a magical barrier at high jump. You’re sort of separating yourself from the crowd at that point. If you do that in college, you’ll compete for Big Ten titles and All-American honors.”


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