Wednesday, April 12, 2000
For Mililani track starBy Tim Crouse
Vera Simms, mental
preparation is key
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The obstacles that Vera Simms sails over in a 300-meter hurdles race stand 30 inches high.
But for the Mililani star, the most difficult hurdles on the track are mental.
Not that the 3.6 GPA student isn't bright. But Simms has gotten to the point in track where the biggest improvements come through mental adjustments, not physical.
The 18-year old senior has left a memorable mark in her sport over the past four years, but she knows a lapse, however momentary, can cost her first place.
In last year's state championships, Simms said she lost her focus, and as a result, she lost a race she could have won.
It was in one of her best events -- the 100-meter high hurdles.
She said she remembers crying after losing by three hundredths of a second to Punahou's Sara Yap.
"I hit a hurdle (during the race)," said Simms. "I had never hit a hurdle before, and I was totally thrown off."
Mililani coach Shane Akamine said Simms had taken a slight lead over Yap as both reached their last hurdle, but Simms stretched early toward the final barrier, and clipped it.
Her time of 15.04 seconds was good enough to tie the meet record, but Yap won in 15.01.
"After that, I lost my focus for the rest of the meet," Simms said.
Akamine reminds his runners that regardless of the race distance, they can't slow down even one foot before the finish line, that they have to finish strong.
Simms said that this year she'll remember what happened when she lost sight of the goal, and stay focused on what she has to do to win.
When she is at the starting line, waiting for a race to begin, Simms said she tries to think about race mechanics.
"I try to think about two or three things that I really have to work on during the race -- technical things like keeping my knees up and driving off my back leg and working my arms," she said.
Simms said some people tell her to clear her head before a race and some say to focus on what she has to do.
So what goes through her mind when she heads toward her first hurdle?
"Trying not to fall," Simms said with a laugh. "I'm not supposed to, but I think about what leg is going to come up for the hurdles and I try not to spend too much time flying in the air.
"But I'm trying to work on that. You're already supposed to know what you're supposed to do and you're not supposed to clutter (your mind). I'm trying to just run smooth and not have to think," she said.
Race preparation happens during the week, and by race time, the coaches have already said what needs to be said.
"Everybody has different ways of preparing for a race. Vera's better off left alone before a race," Akamine said. "She's very focused. She's a tough competitor -- you can see it in her eyes."
Simms is her own toughest critic. "Sometimes you do really bad and it's like, 'What am I doing?' When you fail, it makes you want to practice a little harder," she said.
But she can also appreciate her successes. "You feel good after you accomplish something. When you run really good (you think) 'Wow, that hard work really paid off.' "
THE SIMMS FILE
Intended college major: Engineering
Favorite subjects: Math and Science.
Hi, Mom: Simms' mother, Sandra, is a state judge. She has been serving on the First Circuit since 1991.
State records: Simms is the state record holder in the 300 low hurdles. She set the mark of 43.76 last May at the state championships.
She was also on the record setting 4x100m relay team along with team members Elizabeth Dalrymple, Leila Hammonds, and Cherina Tucker. Their winning time of 48.92 seconds broke the record set by Punahou in 1981.