By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
After qualifying for national Junior Olympics track and field competition last year but not being able to go due to lack of funds, Kim Perkins is anxious for another crack at it.
The Clovis High senior-to-be qualified in the 400 hurdles last summer when she was in the 15-16 age group. Now running in the 17-18 classification, Perkins and her summer coach, CHS assistant Derico Cooper, will leave Thursday for national competition at Indianapolis.
Her preliminary race is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday.
“I’m exited and I can’t wait,” Perkins said. “But it seems like it’s going by so quick.”
One week ago, she emerged from the fourth seed in regional competition at Denver to win in the finals with a time of 1:05.58.
She and Cooper are both hoping for a time closer to the 60-second mark.
“She has about six girls in this age group who are faster than her,” Cooper said. “The other girls are in the 63s, but Kim was 65 (running with relatively little competition).”
Cooper said he anticipates about 30 entrants, with the winner of each heat advancing to Sunday’s finals.
“She has every opportunity to go to the finals and get in the top three and get a medal,” he said. “That’s how she is — she runs according to the competition.”
Perkins, who won the state Class 5A championship in the 300 hurdles in May, said she’s been working on improving her starts.
“I can’t set the pace very well, and I need to work on that,” she said. “But my finishes are always pretty good.
“I know I’m going to have to start fast at the nationals. The girls out there can run, and I’m going to have to be able to stick with them.”
Moving from 300 meters to 400 in the hurdles is an adjustment, but it’s a little easier for Perkins because of her strong finish.
“The 300 is basically an all-out sprint,” Cooper said. “In the 400 you have to be more tactful.”
Perkins and Cooper are hoping for a time of under 62 seconds. That seems to be a tall order, but they figure the competition will push her.
“Going into regionals I felt like I had to run hard,” Perkins said. “I just really want to run a 61; if I can do that, I know I can get to the finals.”
Cooper said the idea is to cut time, and let the chips fall.
“That (a sub-62 time) is about a 46 in the 300 hurdles, and her fastest time in the 300 is 45.4 (this summer in Albuquerque),” Cooper said. “We’re running for time, but the overall goal is to make it to the finals.”