Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Iowa State sprinter Kianna Elahi is producing high performances as the 2011 outdoor track and field season continues. Elahi joined the Iowa State women's track team in 2008 from Millard North High School in Omaha, Neb.
She has gone on to win the 2010 Big 12 Conference 400-meter hurdle title and last week finished second in the event at the Drake Relays in a personal best 56.73 seconds. The junior has come a long way since picking Iowa State as a place to run and study.
"It was between Iowa State and a few other schools, "Elahi said. "When I came here on my visit, during my senior year, the team dynamics were really good between the teammates and with the coach. I really liked the team atmosphere. I also wanted to study engineering and the program here is very good. Everything just kind of fell into place with my running and academic goals."
Elahi has made great improvements as a runner since her first days at Iowa State.
"I have improved a lot from when I started at Iowa State." Elahi said. "Coming from high school I wasn't very competitive. I have made a lot of strides with training and competing with people who are at a completely different level than in high school. Coming here made it so that I had to rise to the occasion in order to compete well."
Iowa State sprints coach Nate Wiens also has seen Elahi's progress from the time she started running for Iowa State.
"Kianna is always improving." Wiens said. "From our pre-season conversations from her freshman year until now, every day she gets better at evaluating her race, her effort and knowing what needs to be done on an individual and team level to be successful."
Elahi has an influence on and off the field as an emerging team leader. Coach Wiens notes how she impacts the team in both areas.
"Kianna brings consistency to the group." Wiens said. "She is always on her workouts and everyone knows what to expect when she is on the track. Off the field Kianna is a great student and very proactive about her studies and time with friends and family."
A chemical engineering major, Elahi must balance her classes with her athletic responsibilities. Elahi makes it work with focus and determination.
"It's hard to balance school with running." Elahi said. "You have to stay focused on your top priorities. God is No. 1 followed by school and then track. It's hard, but to me it is important that you make it work. It forces you to have good time management skills. It's hard but it really teaches you a lot about balancing your life."
Elahi has evolved into a tough competitor. She currently is the reigning Big 12 champion in the 400-meter hurdles. She earned the crown in 2010 when she beat out Texas hurdler Angele Cooper.
"Last year was a very interesting race," Elahi said. "I was coming into the final in a pretty good position. I think I was the second fastest. When I ran that race, it was kind of all over the place, several people were leading and switching off. You really didn't know who was going to win until the very last second. I finally got the lead in the last 100 meters but Cooper from Texas was running me down."
Elahi took more than a victory from that Big 12 title race.
"The race really emphasized to me how important it is to really push." Elahi said. "At the very end of a race when you're going through the last hurdle it's essential to push. If I hadn't Angele would have caught me at the end of the race."
Elahi aims to finish the outdoor season strong. Her goal is to break 56 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles. The Big 12 Championships will be held in Norman, Okla. May 13-15.