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Holden Finds Second Wind Through Roaring Support

By Eric Licas
The Review

The world becomes a blur leading up to the moment South Pasadena High School hurdler Mia Holden takes off from the starting blocks at a major meet.
For a split second, the other elite runners in the lanes next to her and any of her apprehensions evaporate from her perception.
The only things she can see are the finish line and the obstacles she must overcome to reach it.
And the only thing she can hear is the encouragement of everyone who helped her get to where she is now.
“People often ask me if I can hear them cheering for me,” Holden told the Review. “I can’t really pinpoint anyone’s voice, but there’s definitely a roar behind me of people moving me forward.”
She credits their support with propelling her to a personal-best 13.83 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, which earned her second place, at the CIF State Track & Field Championships in Clovis on May 25.
The event brings together California’s top high school athletes, and simply reaching that level of competition had been a goal of Holden’s from the start of her senior year.
“It was my last chance to attack the race while still in high school,” Holden said.
The hurdler committed to UCLA in the fall still has one more race to run before she starts college. Holden is currently training to run the 100 hurdles at the Nike Outdoor Nationals, which takes place in Eugene, Oregon, from June 12 to 15.
“It’s a different stage, with the top hurdlers in the nation,” she said.
Beyond that, Holden looks forward to the start of her training with the UCLA track and field team.
She has been in close contact with coach Devin West and met coach Michelle Freeman during a campus trip earlier this year. They are both sprint and hurdle specialists who will work closely with the young sprinter as she transitions into college competition.
“When I was looking at schools and coaches and the program, something that was important was coaches who were open and listen to me … who care about you as a person, prioritize your health, mental health and physical health,” Holden said.
Self-care and wellness were the main reasons Holden got serious about the sport in the first place. She was a freshman when schools began hosting classes remotely during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and running was one of the few excuses she could find to get out of the house. She joined the track team, and although its members wouldn’t start training together in person until the end of her first season, she quickly grew to love the camaraderie and competition she found with them.
Holden was competing in the regional CIF Southern Section Masters Meet by her sophomore year and made it to the state competition as a junior. Even though she displayed talent early on, she had a hard time believing she belonged in the same races as the state’s top hurdlers. It wasn’t until her senior year that she shook off her doubts.
“I definitely knew who they all were, so it was a little intimidating for me,” Holden said. “It was this year that was able to tell myself I deserve to be here. And every meet that I go to, I have the mindset that I can win despite the competition. … That was definitely something I had to learn to do.”
This year was especially challenging for her because of a strain-related injury that forced her to delay the start of her track season by a month, the hurdler’s father, Travis Holden, said. Initially, they weren’t sure if she would go on to compete, but she made the decision to continue training. And it was up to her to decide how hard to push herself.
“The thing I’m most proud of her is that she understands this is her body,” her father said. “Nobody should be forcing you to do anything with it that’s unhealthy, physically, mentally or anything. And you have to learn to make those decisions for yourself.”
Despite the obstacles, Holden paced herself among the finest competition at each meet she competed in her senior year, securing top finishes at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational and winning events at the Rio Hondo League finals and the 78th Pasadena Games.
Ahead of her CIF state performance, Holden captured two Division III crowns at the CIF Southern Section championships, repeating her title in the 300 hurdles to help the Tigers girls’ team to a runner-up finish.
Along with her second-place finish in the 100 hurdles of the CIF state meet, Holden finished fourth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 42.77.
A rock-solid network of support has been one of the main sources of Holden’s confidence over the years while she has grown as a scholar and athlete. She said she’s grateful to have parents she feels comfortable opening up to, who can help talk her through challenging points in her life. She also has a close bond with South Pasadena High track and field and cross-country coach Mike Parkinson.
“He doesn’t really coach me in sprints or in hurdles, because he’s a physical therapist,” Holden said. “He makes sure everything is feeling good before I race. … I talk to him about what I’m going through and how I’m processing meets and different races. He’s such a good listener.”
Holden credits South Pasadena High’s STEM curriculum with helping cultivate her interest in science. She plans on pursuing a chemical engineering degree but is unsure whether she’ll use that to go into medicine or another area in that field. She said she’s keeping her options open and looking for opportunities to discover and develop her passions.
Travis Holden said it will take a little bit of time to adjust without having Mia around. But he’s relieved that she’s not moving too far away, and says her family plans to continue coming out to every meet she runs in.
“The big thing this year is execution, focusing on what I’m doing — my lane,” Mia Holden said.

Sisters Mia Holden and Naya Holden embrace after competing together in a race at the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Moorpark High School on Saturday, May 11. — Photo by Eric Licas / The Review
Mia Holden, competing in the CIF Southern Section Division III Track and Field Prelims earlier this season, went on to capture two section titles, which included defending her 300-meter hurdle crown. — Photo courtesy Mike Parkinson

First published in the June 7 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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