CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s Jessica Heims broke a world record last week, and she came away disappointed.
The Panther junior track and field athlete captured gold Wednesday at the Parapan America Games in the F64 discus classification in Lima, Peru with a throw of 34.4 meters (112-feet, 10-inches), breaking her own world record and setting herself up for a run at the United States Paralympics team next summer in Tokyo.
“Not my best performance,” Heims said Tuesday in front of media at UNI’s weekly athletics press conference. “I came away a little disappointed with my techniques of my throws. I knew I could do a lot better.
“It was still a good overall performance.”
Set to compete at the World Para Championships in Dubai in mid-November, Heims said the experience in Peru was valuable.
“It was really exciting,” Heims said. “This was my first Parapan games. It happens every year before the Paralympic Games, so I was excited to make the team. Most of my competition is in the Eastern Hemisphere of the world so it was nice to get in the Western Hemisphere and compete against people I don’t normally compete against.”
As far as standing on the podium with the American flag draped over her shoulders, that experience will be hard to forget, too.
“It took a little while to sink in and internalize,” said Heims, a biology, pre-med major at UNI. “It kind of makes you thirsty for more.
“I grew up watching other people hold up the flag, and that was the first time to be able to do that on an international stage. It was super emotional and super exciting.”
UNI track and field coach Dave Paulsen was equally as excited for his athlete.
“What she has done is so amazing,” Paulsen said. “We are so fortunate she chose to come here. She was already really good when she got here, but she is a kid that brings so much to the table. Couldn’t ask for a better representative for the program and the university itself.”
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CROSS COUNTRY: Paulsen’s men’s and women’s teams open this Friday in Iowa City against Iowa and Illinois State in a small meet, before heading to Illinois State the following weekend for a much bigger invitational.
“It is a good opportunity to see where we are at,” Paulsen said. “We have been practicing for a little shy of two weeks now. It will be an opportunity to get out there and execute some race plans and kind of test our fitness.”
VOLLEYBALL: Bobbi Petersen’s squad opened with a huge weekend and has another one this Friday and Saturday.
UNI went 2-1 last weekend, losing at No. 4 Texas in four sets, before sweeping Saturday’s matches in San Marcos, Texas against Liberty and Texas State.
“Extremely proud of how we competed,” Petersen said. “I think when you look at our roster and who we had in the matches, we had a couple of kids that it was their first time on the court in a Panther jersey.
“We had several veterans who had to pick up their workload from last year and years past, so really proud of how our team responded. Overall, very happy with weekend and the cool thing is there is so much we can get better at.”
Moving forward, Petersen encouraged all volleyball fans to get out to the McLeod Center for this Friday and Saturday’s Panther Invitational which includes nationally ranked opponents Creighton (No. 23), Kentucky (12) and Southern California (15).
“I want to promote the heck out of it,” Petersen said. “If anybody likes volleyball just a little bit, you should be in the McLeod Center for the entire two days.”
Action begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday with Creighton and Kentucky opening the tournament.
UNI plays Creighton Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers will face USC at 10:30 a.m. and Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.