Minnesota Duluth hurdler Danielle Kohlwey's goal each season has always been to do better than the year before, but she knows there's no guarantee with any race, especially hurdles.
Kohlwey saw that firsthand at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in March when San Francisco State junior Monisha Lewis, the top seed in the 60-meter hurdles, hit a hurdle in preliminaries and crashed.
"It's such a fast race, and anything can happen," Kohlwey said.
Kohlwey, a senior from Onalaska, Wis., went on to win her first national championship and will try to become the first UMD woman to win indoor and outdoor national titles when she competes in the 100 hurdles this week at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
"If somebody told me freshman year I'd be a national title holder, I would have probably said no," Kohlwey said. "But as the years have gone on, I have progressively gotten better."
Kohlwey has competed at outdoor nationals in the 100 hurdles four straight years, having finished third in 2018 and sixth in 2017 after not making the finals in 2016.
Kohlwey's qualifying time of 13.26 seconds, a school record she posted at the Drake Relays April 26, is the fastest Division II time in the country.
"One of the things that always sticks out about Danielle is how humble she is, and how calm she is before any race," first-year UMD women's coach Laura Harmon said. "As a coach, you get more nervous than she does. She is just so cool, calm and collected."
Teammate Haleigh Reindl, of Waterford, Wis., also will compete in Kingsville this week after competing indoors in March. She has the 15th-best time in the 800 (2:10.19), and the former Wisconsin state champion is the only freshman in the 20-runner field. Prelims for both events are Friday, with finals Saturday.
"Haleigh has transitioned into the college ranks very well," Harmon said. "Indoor she started to figure things out, then outdoor she kind of caught her stride. She's gaining valuable experience athletes her age aren't getting, which is pretty awesome."
After Kohlwey graduated in 2015 from Holmen (Wis.) High School, where she won Wisconsin state titles in the 100 and 300 hurdles, she was interested in attending the University of Minnesota but found the sprawling campus overwhelming. That wasn't the case with her visit to UMD.
"As soon I was on campus, I loved it," Kohlwey said. "I just had this feeling that I wanted to go here, and anywhere else I visited I didn't feel that way."
Kohlwey, 21, married KBJR Ch. 6 creative services producer Nick Beattie in October. Kohlwey graduated May 11 with a degree in marketing and graphic design.
That was also the same day of the NSIC outdoor championships, but fortunately for Kohlwey and three of her teammates, those championships were in Duluth. They were the first ones to walk after master's students in the first ceremony that morning at Amsoil Arena. Then it was all back to business for UMD's outstanding female senior athlete of 2018-19.
"Danielle has been an amazing role model for all her teammates, and is so positive," Harmon said. "That's one of the things we'll really miss. You never would know if she was having a bad day. She just always comes to practice with a really good attitude and ready to work. She is very focused, which you have to be in order to compete at that level. I just wish I had more time with her."
After concluding her collegiate career this week, Kohlwey plans on staying in Duluth for a while before heading west, likely Oregon or California, to pursue professional running. She first wants to get healthy.
Kohlwey stretches constantly. She has been nursing tendinitis in both knees since indoor nationals and also has dealt with back pain, but based on the results, it's hard to tell.
"It was always a goal and a dream to win a national title, so it was really cool when it actually happened," Kohlwey said. "I just run every race the best I can, and whatever happens is going to happen. I'm very grateful that I was able to pull out a national championship. Hopefully I can do it again, but if not, that's OK. I'm just there to do what I can, do what I love, and represent UMD. I'm very excited just to be there."