WALLKILL - Ciarra Holmes had just traveled 15 hours on a plane; one hour later she was on a track working out. The 17-year-old Wallkill High School senior could not have been happier; after all she was in Australia, competing in the prestigious Down Under Sports International Games in Brisbane, Australia.
Holmes, a two-time New York State High School State Meet qualifier, who placed 6th overall in the 100 meter hurdles at the Outdoor Championships this spring, was one of just 300 high school track and field athletes invited to the Down Under Games. Including participants from five different countries, the Games have a host of age bracket competitions, including the one Holmes competed in for ages 16 and 17.
Vying against high caliber competition, the swift Holmes earned a bronze medal in her premiere event, the 100 meter hurdles, while claiming 8th in the 100 meter dash and 9th in the long jump. Despite her impressive feats on the track, some of the rewards garnered from the experience went even deeper.
"Meeting people from different states and countries, including a 2012 Australian Olympian triple and long jumper was absolutely amazing," said a smiling Holmes. "Plus, the whole experience really helped get me out of my bubble, making me more outgoing; it was my first time away from my parents, so I really had to do things for myself."
That venture away from mom and dad lasted eight days. Not only did the week plus trek include three days of intense competition in Australia, but also a few days in Hawaii for some rest and relaxation after the meet. The pricetag for the experience was hefty; however, thanks to an outpouring of support, the seemingly elusive trip became a reality. With contributions from family and friends, along with ones from her father’s job and the Elks Club, Ciarra’s parents were able to provide the remaining needed monies.
"It really came down to the wire, but we did it," said mother Erin Holmes. "It was certainly well worth it; I have seen such a positive difference and growth in her since she has come back."
That change has come in the form of a more outgoing, confident daughter. It’s those traits that are inciting Holmes to shoot for even more on the track during her senior year at Wallkill High School. Referring to herself as her "toughest critic," Holmes has always had the fire to keep improving, having her focus on setting a school record in the 100 hurdles, shattering as many personal records as she can along the way. Already possessing the lofty achievement of being the only Wallkill High School girl to qualify for a state track and field meet, she is now looking toward securing a college scholarship. Since coming back from "The Down Under," she now sees the scope of scholastic competition that exists beyond her once limited New York State lens.
"Seeing that competition, pushes me even more now," said a confident, but still very humble, Holmes, who as a long-time captain is known to be a mentor to her teammates at Wallkill.
And what about her read on suggesting others punch that Down Under track meet ticket? The answer is a no-brainer.
"Definitely; it let’s you see the level of competition out there, and you get to see places in another country, like the Opera House and Bay Bridge in Sydney," Holmes pointed out.
Reflecting further, as a smile stretches across her face, the teenager added, "Australia is such a clean and beautiful country," said Holmes. "Yea, I would definitely live there."