On Sunday, July 21, rising senior Ziyah Holman ran the third leg of Team USA’s 4x400-meter relay as they broke the 15-year old world record with a time of 3:24.04. They won the Under-20 Pan American Championships in San José, Costa Rica by approximately 60 meters and shaved nearly 3 seconds off the previous world record!
While each athlete was used to running anchor for her respective team, they settled into their assigned roles to execute a race that was incredible to watch. With a wide gap opened by the time Ziyah received the baton, she ran the 400 meters alone. Without nearby competitors to push her, she had to rely upon her training and her determination. She lifted the baton high for the final pass of the race, made the clean handoff, staggered, and collapsed onto the infield grass. Within the 50-odd seconds it took teammate Kayla Davis to cross the finish line, Ziyah was on her feet ready to receive her with open arms.
Draped in the American flag with a gold medal on her chest beside teammates Alexis Holmes, Kimberly Harris, and Kayla Davis, Ziyah explained the winning attitudes of the relay team. She said, “Everyone came into the race with a positive mindset and was very supportive of each other. I’m speechless and I’m so proud of everyone.”
Less than one month before, Ziyah Holman had charged up DC’s Battery Kemble hill through wet grass, arms pumping as the grade reached nearly 30%, just as the sun crested the treeline during training. Sprint coach William Miezan stood halfway up the hill, stopwatch in hand, cheering and challenging Ziyah through the early-morning training session. She ran the hill seven times before heading for 15 laps up the brutal Exorcist Steps in Georgetown. Yet by 9:30 a.m., Ziyah was on our High School campus to help host high-achieving middle school students from underserved areas as part of the Higher Achievement Program. Fresh off winning the distinction of DC Gatorade Player of the Year for Track and Field for the second time—an award that honors academic achievement, exemplary character, and her athletic accomplishments—Ziyah has continued to live these values daily.
Her mother Rashida Holman-Jones couldn’t be more proud. She said, “This achievement was so much more than just the relay win. GDS continues to strengthen Ziyah and her ability to advocate for herself, set goals, and work hard.”
In the dozen days of postseason prior, Ziyah broke records, won awards, and set a personal best of 52.12 in the 400-meter. Her Pan American Championships official split—with the relay running start—was 51.41, meaning she could certainly have broken the 52:00 mark on Sunday. The team’s finish time of 3:24.04 ranks in the top 30 of the fastest times ever run by any foursome of women of any age in the history of track and field.
“Ziyah, what a joy it was to watch you representing your country, your school, your family and yourself!!!” wrote head coach Anthony Belber within minutes of their record-setting performance. Anthony was glued to the event livestream from DC, sending words of encouragement and guidance in the days leading up to the race as well as race updates to the GDS coaching staff. “Words escape me when it comes to expressing just how proud we all are of you. You ‘Run Good!’”
“Congratulations!” William added. “You did it. We are so proud of you. I can't wait to see and hug you.”
Rashida said, “Anthony and William, along with the dynamic assistant coaches, have given so much to Ziyah off and on the track. From the words of encouragement and sprint analysis from Anthony, to William's morning and evening training, they prepared Ziyah for success. She has continued to mention the level of optimism shown by GDS track coaches. She believed she could do it, not because she is fast and strong; but more so because her coaches told her she would and if she didn't it was just fine. She worked hard and that was all that was required.”
Assistant running coach Mark Berenson delightedly said: "So Ziyah, what did you do for your summer vacation?" "I set a world record."
“Wish I could have been there to witness it!” said assistant sprint coach Kyra Caldwell.
Assistant running coach Matt Simonson ’04 immediately sent a screenshot from the livestream of a joyful Ziyah cheesing for the camera after the race. “This photo [see photo 3] expresses how I feel. So proud of you!!!!”
Traveling to the event separately from Ziyah for the first time, Rashida was understandably nervous. “I realized this was the real training GDS provided. She knew how to represent herself and navigate through the complexity of this experience. I am beyond proud of her and thankful for all of the support GDS continues to provide. She is truly GDS Strong!”