FARMINGTON — One of the best sprinters in the state has earned the chance to compete for a Division I college.
Piedra Vista's Zhianna Flores signed her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to run track for the University of Memphis.
Flores, who begins her senior season with PV this spring, holds New Mexico's state 4A records in the 200-meter dash and 300-meter hurdles.
"It feels great knowing that all the hard work paid off," she said.
Flores said she has developed a good relationship with Memphis head track coach Kevin Robinson. And that, she said, is what influenced her decision to run for the Tigers.
"I reached out to a lot of out-of-state schools," she said. "(Robinson) seemed to really like me, and since my junior year, always kept in contact."
Flores thanked the coaching staff at PV for helping her get the opportunity to run in college.
"Coach (Mark) Turner has always been there since I was a freshman and was always there to help no matter what," she said. "Coach (Jared) Howell is the best sprint coach I've ever had in my life, and, on a personal level, he's like another dad to me. Coach (Adam) Huff really helped with his experience at 300-hurdles."
Turner said he thought Flores would be a star for the Lady Panthers since the first time she competed.
"With Zhianna, we knew she was something special the very first track meet she ran," Turner said. "She qualified (for the state meet) in two events, the 100 and 300 hurdles, right off the bat. She worked hard to get there."
Flores is the second Panthers' track athlete in as many years to sign a D1 letter of intent, joining Zach Johnson, who runs for the Air Force Academy.
"It shows that the program is alive and well and that the kids can move on from here if they work at it," Turner said.
In college, Flores said she expects to compete in the 400-meter dash during the indoor season and the 400-meter hurdles during the outdoor season.
Turner expects it will take time for Flores to transition from the 300-meter hurdle races run during the high school season to the 400-meter races run at the college level. But, he said, he believes she has the talent to make the adjustments.
"I think they're getting the real deal and by her junior year, she will be a hurdler worth chasing," Turner said. "She has the speed to run the 400 hurdle, but it will take a year or so to get there, but she will. It's a change in attitude as much as it is in training."
Entering her final season at PV, Flores said she'd like to qualify for the regional and national meets with her eyes set on placing at the high school national meet.
Her coaches also believe she can set the 100-meter dash state record and be 4A's top scoring runner during the state championship meet in Albuquerque on May 17.
Memphis is in its first season competing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference with nine other teams, including the University of Connecticut and the University of Louisville.
In 2013, the Memphis women's track team finished second during the indoor season and fourth during the outdoor season in Conference USA.Joshua Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.