Holmen graduate Danielle Kohlwey set herself in the starting blocks and waited for the gun in the 100-meter dash for the Minnesota-Duluth track and field team last week. The gun blasted—so did Kohlwey.
She stormed out of the blocks and collected the new school record in the event.
Her time of 11.93 seconds was the fastest anyone in the program has recoded since Julie Hay’s 11.99 just over 34 years ago. She also recently broke Hay’s 34-year-old record in the 200 meter dash by running a 24.53.
It’s an impressive achievement for anyone, but it’s an extraordinary one for Kohlwey, who hadn’t run a 100-meter dash since seventh grade.
A hurdler and 200-meter sprinter for UMD, Kohlwey had tweaked a back muscle after qualifying for nationals in the 100 meter hurdles. In order to preserve her body but continue to train, her coach entered her in the dash.
“When you’re working on improving in the 100 hurdles, you want to work on speed at the end of the season to hope it carries over into your hurdles, so we entered her in the dash to help train her and keep her healthy,” said UMD track and field coach Joanna Warmington.
“We knew she was fast, but we had no idea she was that fast,” the coach said.
Kohlwey said she hadn’t planned on running the dash but after the injury she wanted to be able to compete without harming her back any further.
“It wasn’t something I planned on running, but I was taking a break from running hurdles and I just thought I would give the sprint a try.”
While one might think it would be intimidating to run a race she had never competed in, Kohlwey said she didn’t give it much thought.
“To be honest I don’t get nervous if the race is under 400 meters. I was just focusing on getting out of the blocks as fast as I could, and I think it was the fastest I’ve ever done that. I’ve never had such a good race that I can remember,” Kohlwey said.
She never thought she’d set a new school record.
“I knew of the record, but I never expected to break it. It’s such an honor to be able to be on the campus leaderboard,” she said.
Warmington said she wasn’t surprised to see Kohlwey perform so well in the event.
“She’s so mentally tough and works so hard. She’s a fighter and she keeps her nerves to a minimum. She knows what to do and she knows she is capable of doing it, so she just simply does it.”
Her high school hurdle coach Paul Berge said they kept Kohlwey focused on hurdles throughout high school as to not injure her. He wasn’t surprised to hear of her success in something other than hurdles either.
“In high school, she just got better and better every year, and she has so much talent,” he said. “You have to be a good sprinter to be a good hurdler, and she is both of those things.”
Berge has watched Kohlwey get stronger and faster each year.
“Her future in track is so bright and she’s just a sophomore. She’s already a premiere athlete to emerge from the area,” Berge said.
Warmington also said the best is yet to come.
“I’ve always known she was an excellent hurdler ever since we recruited her, but she is really blossoming this season as a sprinter. Her breaking that record is setting a new standard for our program and I guarantee she will break both this record and more by this time next year,” Warmington said.