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Ivory Coast sprinter with local ties advances to 200-meter final

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Craig Stouffer,Olympics

She carried the flag for her country during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. She raced in the women's 100-meter dash final last weekend, and she'll race in the finals of the 200-meter dash on Wednesday.

She also went to high school and college in the Washington area.

Murielle Ahoure isn't easily recognizable as one of a number of former D.C. products in this year's Summer Olympics. The first reason may be that she's racing for Ivory Coast, the country where she was born before relocating first to France then the U.S. when she was a teenager. The second reason is that she left her first college, George Mason, after two seasons, and headed to Miami, where she won the 200-meter NCAA title in 2009.

But her start came at Hayfield High, just south of the Beltway in Alexandria, where a guidance counselor introduced her to coach T.D. Holsclaw a couple weeks into the spring track season. A sophomore then, she'd never run competitively before.

"I said, 'Sure,'?" Holsclaw said. "Just add another one to the bunch, I guess."

Holsclaw stayed with Ahoure through her time with the Patriots, where she was an All-American.

Last weekend in London, in her first Olympics, she finished seventh in the 100 final, with a time of 11.00 seconds. In the 200, she won her preliminary heat with a time of 22.55 and finished second in her semifinal heat (22.49) to qualify for Wednesday's final.

"She's turned into quite a stud," said Hayfield assistant director of activities and field coach Jeff Herbert. "We fought tooth and nail for two years to get her in the weight room. Seeing pictures of her now, I'd be afraid to see her in a dark alley. A very sweet girl, awesome kid."

While Hayfield has a message of support on the school's marquis, nobody saw Ahoure carry the flag into Olympic Park Stadium -- NBC skipped over it during commercials.

"They haven't even shown any of her heats on TV," Herbert said. "They've only been online. That's been the downfall for us."

Holsclaw, who now coaches at South County High, said his family dressed up in Ivory Coast T-shirts and sent a picture to Ahoure back in late spring. He said it would be the only time during the Olympics that they wouldn't wear red, white and blue. He also believes that the 200 is Ahoure's best event.

"Still to this day, it's funny because once she starts running, she is yet to slow down," Holsclaw said. "She just seems to keep getting faster and faster."

- Craig Stouffer

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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