By Adam Regan - MileSplit Correspondent
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MIRAMAR, Fla. -- Alexis Holmes was decked out in all black over the weekend.
But while most collegiate athletes were sporting their program's colors and logos, Penn State University was nowhere to be seen on her uniform at the USA Track and Field U20 Outdoor Championships.
Holmes was representing the New Haven (CT) Age Group Track Club.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year confirmed this weekend she's in the transfer portal and on the move. She has her eyes set on a transfer to the Southeastern Conference.
"This is kind of like my redemption tour," Holmes said of her 400 meter qualifier to the Pan American U20 Championships -- she finished second in the USA U20 final in 52.52 seconds. "That's what I'm calling it. That's why I'm wearing all black. Just to make sure people don't forget about me."
But, how could anyone forget?
Holmes, a Hamden, Connecticut native, is the reigning Big Ten champion at 400 meters, where she set a Penn State record with a time of 52.14 in Iowa. She ran 52.37 to finish fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
But the level of competition in the Big Ten and at Penn State played into her reasoning.
"I think I'm the type of person runs with the level of competition I'm with," Holmes said. "So, I think going SEC will be the best bet for me."
Holmes has already taken visits to Florida, Tennessee, Texas and will head to Kentucky this weekend.
"I think being able to train with people who are just as good or better will definitely catapult my abilities because pushing yourself every day in practice will translate to the track when you go to compete," Holmes said.
The 2018 Cheshire (CO) Academy graduate was a three-time New England Prep School Athletic Council champion in the 100, 200, and 400. But she said it was difficult to find significant challengers in Connecticut, no less elite athletes to train with.
When she was pitted against the nation's best at New Balance Outdoors in 2018, in her breakout national race, she ran a personal-record 51.21 to take home the title. By then, she had already signed with the Nittany Lions.
Over the weekend, with a spot on the Pan American U20 Championships on the line, she wanted to extend her freshman season and faced an elite field in the 400.
Holmes ran a 52.43 in the prelims to get into a final that included reigning USATF National Junior Olympic champion Kayla Davis, Brooks PR Invitational champion Ziyah Holman and Georgia high school state champion Kimberly Harris, as well as collegiate talents like Bailey Lear of USC, Paris Peoples of Arkansas and Kennedy Simon of Texas.
"When I get here with these type of girls I just rise to the occasion," Holmes said.
Holmes punched her ticket, all right. She went 51.52, finishing behind the nation's top freshman, Kayla Davis (51.52).
Her redemption tour will have an international stop before she finalizes where she'll spend the rest of her collegiate career.