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Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen runs a warm-up lap around the Ansbach track before a recent practice session. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect.

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen runs a warm-up lap around the Ansbach track before a recent practice session. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen runs a warm-up lap around the Ansbach track before a recent practice session. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect.

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen runs a warm-up lap around the Ansbach track before a recent practice session. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen and her teammates huddle around Cougars track coach and athletic director Michael Jimerson during a recent practice session at Ansbach. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect.

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen and her teammates huddle around Cougars track coach and athletic director Michael Jimerson during a recent practice session at Ansbach. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen sprints out of the blocks during a recent practice at Ansbachl. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect.

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen sprints out of the blocks during a recent practice at Ansbachl. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen clears a hurdle during a recent practice session at Ansbach. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect.

Ansbach senior Mykala Bazen clears a hurdle during a recent practice session at Ansbach. Bazen is the reigning DODDS-Europe 300-meter hurdles champion and a collegiate track and field prospect. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

ANSBACH, Germany – Somehow, after countless transfers and relocations, after fresh starts and false starts, Mykala Bazen ended up right where she belongs.

Under different circumstances or timing, Bazen might have found herself in the middle-distance pack in Greenville, S.C., or sifting through limited athletic options in Bahrain. Instead, she’s the reigning DODDS-Europe champion in the 300-meter hurdles, the latest in a long line of Ansbach track and field stars, and a prospect to make the imposing leap from DODDS to the NCAA.

Somehow, it all fell into place.

Eventually.

Figurative hurdles crowd the path of every young athlete, and Bazen was no different. But for Bazen, the hurdles were also literal; physical objects, uncompromising straight lines suspended impossibly high off the ground, daring her to clear their height and her own doubts in one triumphant leap.

That leap was a long time coming.

On the first day of track tryouts in Greenville, S.C., Bazen, then a sophomore, first contemplated hurdling.

“It seemed like you had something to focus on while you were running, instead of just running,” Bazen said.

Technically, she didn’t fail. It simply didn’t happen. Before she could even approach her first hurdle, Bazen slipped while running on the rain-slicked track. It was an untimely flare-up of her well-known clumsiness - she’s running this spring still carrying the scars of a spill off a skateboard – and it immediately dashed her hopes of hurdling. The coach, perhaps wisely, pointed the 10th-grader to events with less potential for painful pratfalls.

“He was like, ‘No, you’re not going to jump over a hurdle,’” Bazen recalled. “I never got to do them.”

Bazen settled into the 400- and 800-meter races in Greenville, and, in her words, “did OK.” Under different circumstances, OK might have been all her track career amounted to. But for Bazen, a childhood of near-constant moving - from Iceland to Nebraska, Italy to Virginia - always held the promise of something new.

A move from South Carolina for a brief stint in Bahrain – one of many for the Bazen family on the Middle Eastern island nation, including one 17 years ago when Mykala was born – led to a transfer to Ansbach in March 2013, the midst of Bazen’s junior year. In rural, wide-open Bavaria, things quickly began to fall into place.

Bazen arrived in Germany just in time for the DODDS-Europe spring track season. Ansbach track coach and athletic director Michael Jimerson welcomed the new recruit into his program and set to work identifying her ideal events. Bazen ran; Jimerson evaluated. She didn’t have the raw foot speed for the short-distance sprints, he determined. But she had an intangible quality, an inner determination and willingness to learn, that made her ideal for a particularly challenging event.

Hurdling.

“Let’s try this,” Jimerson told the newest Cougar. “I think you can win the 300-meter hurdles.”

Fueled by nervous energy, Bazen approached the first hurdle.

“I stopped. I didn’t run over it,” Bazen recalled. “I waited for everyone else to go, then I tried again. Stopped again.”

On the third try, Bazen finally got her feet off the ground and cleared the first hurdle. And, in figurative terms, she has yet to come down.

Under the direction of Jimerson, a coach with a history of cultivating European-championship caliber athletes at Ansbach, Bazen spent the spring season gradually slicing seconds from her time and fine-tuning her technique. At the European championships in May, Bazen won the 300-meter hurdle championship with a time of 47.96, about three seconds short of the standing DODDS-Europe record.

With the goal of a championship accomplished, that record hung over the track as the latest figurative hurdle to beckon and push Bazen. Jimerson coached the current holder of that record, former Ansbach star Tiffany Heard, when she ran a 44.80 race in 2010, becoming the DODDS-Europe standard and, eventually, Bazen’s benchmark.

“I really want that. I’ve never broken a record before,” Bazen said. “And I think that would be cool.”

Breaking that record might lead to other cool things for Bazen, who added to that list in winter with an All-Europe selection in her first year as a cheerleader. Now in the midst of her senior season, and having already knocked her personal-best time down to 45.89, Bazen is looking to the future. She’s been in touch with major college track coaches, and learned some valuable and motivating information: the same time she needs to break the DODDS-Europe record would also make her a legitimate collegiate prospect.

“I think it makes me work harder,” Bazen said. “I like setting challenges for myself and then reaching them.”

Or, perhaps, flying over them.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twiter: @broomestripes

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