Safe to say the season didn’t start out the way Balkis Iyiola wanted when it came to the high hurdles.
Iyiola wasn’t a hurdler last time there was an outdoor season. In the spring of 2019, she won the 100 at sectionals in 12.58 and was second in the 200 in 26.14. She started hurdling this past indoor season and picked it up fast enough to place third at states over the 55-meter highs.
But the 100-meter highs didn’t click at first. She ran 17.71 at the BCSL Championships and then didn’t make it out of the trials at the Burlington County Open.
But once championship season arrived, Iyiola was unstoppable.
She ran 15.74 – a two-second PR! – to win the Central Jersey Group 1 title and she also won the 100 and placed third in the 200 at sectionals at Long Branch,.
At Group 1 states at Pennsauken this past weekend, Iyiola matched that 15.74 in the trials and then took another whopping two-thirds of a second off her hurdles PR, running 15.08 and winning by more than a second over sophomore Rayael Marshall of Clayton, who was second in 16.20.
Willingboro’s Kenady Wilson won a state high jump title in 2019 (and competed at NCAAs this past weekend), but Iyiola became the first Willingboro girl to win a state title on the track since Vanessa Arientyl won the highs (14.38) and intermediates (1:02.54) at the 2010 state Group 2 meet at Egg Harbor.
The only other Willingboro high hurdlers who’ve won state titles are Carole Lewis outdoors in 1979 and indoors and outdoors in 1980 and 1981, Kia Van Wright (indoors in 1994), Kim Allen (indoors in 2002 and 2003).
Iyiola’s 15.08 is also fastest by any Willingboro hurdler since Arientyl’s 14.38 at the 2010 state meet.
She also placed fourth in the 100 at states this past weekend for 14 points. She goes into Saturday’s Meet of Champions at South Plainfield as the No. 10 seed in the highs and No. 2 among South Jersey hurdlers, behind only Eastern’s Jailya Ash, the top seed at 14.10.
How fast can she go? Considering that she’s lowered her PR by 2 1/2 seconds in the last two weeks and ran 15.08 unpressed, the sky’s the limit.