LaSarah Hargrove, Iowa's record-setting sprinter, gets long-awaited opportunity at NCAA Track

LaSarah Hargrove settled into her blocks for her first race of the day. On the surface, the Iowa sophomore sprinter appeared ready.

But internally, she's was fighting a battle, she said. 

In February, she missed qualifying for her first NCAA Indoor Championships by a few hundredths of the second. Now in May, she was at the NCAA West Regional, attempting to qualify for her first NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Statistically, she's one of the Big Ten's best sprinters but qualifying for nationals would be a new level. Unlike indoors, she had three opportunities to make the championships, all in the same day: the 4x100 meter relay and the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.

"That weekend at regionals, I kind of had like a mental battle," Hargrove said. "Just because I had a few events to run. But I was able to get through it." 

Approximately 43.69 seconds later after she settled in her blocks, her next emotion she recalled was excitement.

She ran the leadoff leg on a record-setting relay, good enough for No. 1 all-time at Iowa, and to send the women's 4x100 team to the outdoor finals for the first time since 2016. 

"That was the first race that I ran to like qualify to make it to Nationals," Hargrove said. "So it was a really good feeling. And it was also really nice like seeing everything come together on the first leg, so just watching everyone run their legs and everything going so smoothly and then watching (anchor leg Paige Magee) cross the finish line was a really cool feeling." 

And she was far from done. Hargrove clocked all-conditions personal-best times in both the 100-meters (11.05 wind-aided) and 200-meters (22.58w), that placed her Top 10 nationally in both events. By day's end she had a share of a school record, two personal bests and three tickets punched to the NCAA Final taking place this week in Eugene, Oregon.

Afterwards, Iowa track and field director Joey Woody offered this high praise:

“LaSarah had one of the best all-time performances in Iowa track and field history today,” he said. 

Iowa’s LaSarah Hargrove is the school's record holder in the 60 meter dash and is second all-time in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash.

Hargrove's reaction?

She's still trying to make sense of her breakout day, about a week later. 

"I'm actually still processing it," Hargrove said. "Last year, I didn't even make the 100 meter final at the (Big Ten Outdoor Championship) so just I'm really grateful for this opportunity and for (coach Woody) for putting me in the best position." 

Hargrove's become a frequent member of Iowa's all-time record books in her short career. She holds sole possession or a share of two records: 60 meters and 4x100 relay and second (200-meters) and second (100-meters) in two others. Now, she's eyeing the next step in her fast-growing career: becoming the first Iowa women's All-American sprinter since 2018. 

"I think (her performance) was a huge message," Woody said. "This girl's for real and she's got the ability to be able to make that (NCAA) final and compete to be first team All-American." 

Despite her program accolades, Hargrove's path has been far from linear. The initial COVID outbreak prevented her from having an outdoor season as a freshman in 2020. The following year saw progress but still didn't qualify for indoor or outdoor NCAA Finals. A series of injuries throughout also halted her progress. 

Woody saw an opportunity for Hargrove to finally take a leap entering this season. Before the indoor season began, he challenged her in a major way. 

"When I when I first met with her this fall," Woody said. "I just said I told her look at the record board in the 60-meters. I said you need to rewrite that, you need to put your name up there and rewrite that record. And obviously she did that and then ever since then her goal has been to become one of the best sprinters in program history." 

(Left to right): Erin Dowd, Lia Love, LaSarah Hargrove, and Paige Magee will be Iowa's first 4x100 meter relay team to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 2016.

Hargrove's time of 7.25 seconds eclipsed the 60-meters record in mid-February. However, she missed qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Finals by 02 seconds. Such a narrow miss was a painful moment but provided necessary motivation for the 2022 outdoor season.

"It was really pretty sad for me," Hargrove said. "I kind of shifted my mindset a little bit, obviously, continuing to work hard and just realizing that everything happens like when and how it should." 

Examining her present self, Hargrove's undergone a complete transformation that has her peaking. A top-eight finish this weekend will secure first team All-American honors and second team honors for top 16. 

"I definitely think I've progressed a lot physically and also mentally," Hargrove said. "When I first came here I just mentally wasn't there. But I feel like I've changed a lot of my mindsets, eating habits, sleeping habits and just overall become like a harder worker and obviously coach Woody has been a major part of that."

As for the sprint legends she's chasing, it's a list that includes three-time Olympian Kineke Alexander, 11-time All-American Brittany Brown and seven-time All-American Brianna Guillory. Brown and Guillory are two names that are ahead of Hargrove in the 100 and 200-meter records. 

Hargrove can begin to build her own legacy with a continuation of what she displayed at the NCAA Regionals. A positive sign for Hargrove: there won't be any pre-race mental battles this time, she'll be feeling something much different. 

"I'm really excited for this," Hargrove said. "I'm not scared, just anxious just ready to on this track. Obviously this is a very nice track and a wonderful opportunity. And I'm just ready to compete and have fun." 

Who are all of the Hawkeyes competing? 

The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held from Wednesday-Saturday at the University of Oregon. Broadcasts of the events will take place on the ESPN family of networks. Here's the full list of women's participants: 

  • Erin Dowd, senior, 400-meter hurdles and 4x100 meter relay 
  • LaSarah Hargrove, sophomore, 100-meters, 200-meters and 4x100 meter relay 
  • Lia Love, freshman, 4x100 meter relay 
  • Paige Magee, freshman, 400-meter hurdles and 4x100 meter relay 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.