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ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Anmarie Stuit isn’t the first runner to think the 400 hurdles is a crazy race. However, crazy has turned into a labor of love for the Unity Christian senior looking for an exclamation point finish to her prep career at the Iowa State Track and Field Championships this week.

Stuit has made big improvements in the hurdles from finishing 20th at state as a sophomore to fifth a year ago, running out of the second heat. She comes to the Blue Oval this year with the fastest time in the qualifying meets of 1:06.10, a hundredth of a second ahead of PCM freshman Margo Chipps.

“It is a long distance with a lot of hurdles but I grew to love them,” said Stuit of her change in perception of the race over the years. “I just try to sprint really hard in between and attack the hurdle and that is about it.”

Sounds simple enough, but execution of that plan rarely is.

Stuit’s coach Mark Kauk said it is her start and finish to the race that seals the deal for her.

“She really focuses on getting out to a great start and she has a tremendous finish,” he said. “There are very few people that are going to pass her off the last hurdle. She has great determination coming off the last hurdle.”

Stuit said her strong start comes from training for the 200, but success in the 400 hurdles can become mental after that.

“You hit that 200 mark and you know that you are just halfway there, but you just have to keep pushing through and asking yourself ‘Do I want this?’” she said.

With the weather throwing one curve after another into this season’s track schedule, Stuit wasn’t performing the way she wanted to start. A talk with her dad helped motivate her and a strong showing in a late April meet has her ready to go at state.

Stuit, who will run at Dordt next year, surprised even herself with her personal best at the qualifying meet last Thursday running her time in cold, damp conditions that blanketed much of Northwest Iowa.

“I was very blessed to put down a time like that,” Stuit said. “I was really focused and determined that I really wanted to make it to state.”

Stuit has been running all year and believes that some new platform training has also helped her in addition to weight training she has done to improve her times.

Kauk said he starts most of his sprinters in hurdles as freshmen to see who can handle it, and for Stuit she hadn’t had much experience with it until her freshman year. She enjoyed a bit of a breakthrough at the Sioux City Relays as a freshman finishing fifth in the race.

“She has been working on hurdle skills since her freshman year and we have used her in the 400 since her freshman year so it was a good match,” Kauk said. “She has learned to run that race better and better. I know she takes a lot of time and effort to try to get through all 10 without any stutters or short steps.”

Stuit has turned herself into a strong hurdler through a lot of hard work, but she isn’t the only impressive hurdler the Knights will bring to state. Junior Mikayla Turek has the fourth-fastest qualifying time in the 400 hurdles at 1:07.50.

“She works so hard and pushes me not only in meets and practices and to have that great friendship also makes the bond greater,” Stuit said.

“They have a great opportunity to be able to push each other in practice,” Kauk said. “Not only with interval training but hurdle training. It has been a big blessing for both of them. They both have a different style running the hurdles, but they each excel in their own way and get the job done.”

Stuit has had the advantage most of the season over her teammate, but they have gone back and forth over the years with Turek clipping her once earlier this season.

Stuit will be busy at the state meet as she is also part of the 4x200, 4x400 and the sprint medley relays.

“It is a lot of fun qualifying in a team event because you are running with your teammates, and it makes me very excited that you can push each other,” she said.

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