By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Deanna Latham could be a nationally recognized name in track circles in less than three weeks time.
Latham, a Triton Regional High alumna, is about to embark upon the biggest stretch of races in her storied track career. The University of Wisconsin junior will leave for Austin, Tx., this morning for the NCAA Division 1 West Regionals. She plans to compete in the 110-meter hurdles and long jump in hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Division 1 Championships, which will take place June 5 to 8 in Eugene, Ore.
Latham, who placed 10th in the heptathlon at NCAA Division 1 Championships in Eugene, Ore., last season, has already earned a return trip to this year’s NCAA Division 1 Championships in the multi-event.
However, Latham has a chance to become the rare Division 1 athlete who qualifies for the nation’s premier outdoor track meet in multiple events. This week’s meet appears to fall at the perfect time for Latham, in that she is racing as well as ever at the close of her senior season.
“I think my third year (at Wisconsin) is where everything came together,” Latham said. “My freshman year, I had to unlearn bad habits. My sophomore year, I had to learn to compose myself and perform to my capability. Junior year has been a breakthrough season. I know how to do everything, and I’m really fit.”
Latham was one of Wisconsin’s biggest stars in the Big 10 Championships last weekend. She finished second in the 110-meter hurdles in 13.15, which was well below the school-record pace of 13.45. Unfortunately for Latham, the run was deemed to be wind-aided, and her preliminary run of 13.46 fell 0.01 seconds shy of the record.
“Don’t worry, I’m going to get the record at Regionals,” Latham said.
Latham also placed fourth in the long jump (19-6 3/4) and 12th in the javelin (127-2) at Big 10 Championships. If she finishes as seeded at this weekend’s West Regionals, she will advance to Nationals in the 110-meter hurdles. She is seeded fifth in the region, and the top 12 finishers advance. She is seeded 43rd in the long jump.
“I have a good chance of making it to Nationals in the hurdles, but the long jump is kind of a stretch,” Latham said. “I’ve jumped distances that would make it several times, I’ve just fouled. I’m also still doing the (heptathlon) at NCAAs, but we never do that at Regionals because it would be too much to do that two weeks apart.”
Latham has set a goal of 13.2 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles, which would be right on par with her wind-aided run at the Big 10 Championships.
“I’d really like to run 13.1, but 13.2 or 13.3 would be fine,” Latham said. “I’ll just take the school record. The big thing is qualifying for NCAAs.”
Latham’s qualifying score of 5,493 points in the heptathlon, which she posted earlier this season, is the best by a Big Ten athlete this year. Latham will enter NCAAs as the 10th seed.