Texas A&M University Freshman Tyra Gittens will do the unenviable double – the grueling seven-event heptathlon as well as an individual event at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Texas A&M University Freshman Tyra Gittens capped a remarkable debut collegiate season with two top-10 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, USA on the weekend.
Gittens finished 8th in the grueling seven-event heptathlon with her second highest points total ever (5748 pts) and 9th (6.38 metres) in the long jump to earn two Second-team All American honours.
It is the latest on a long list of commendable achievements during a highly successful freshman campaign for the Trinidad & Tobago-born athlete. Prior to the championships, she was named the SEC (South East Conference) Field Athlete of the Year as well as the South Central Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCCA.
The just turned 20 year old won the SEC Conference heptathlon title with a collegiate freshman record 6,074 points a month ago. The tally broke the Texas A&M record as well as the Trinidad & Tobago national record.
Even more impressive, Gittens also placed 3rd in the high jump and 5th in the long jump scoring a total of 20 points at the said conference championships.
The Nashville, Tennessee, USA native, also set career-best marks in the 100m hurdles 13.21 seconds, 1.86 metres in the high jump and 6.47m in the long jump, ranking among the top 10 on the ‘Aggie’ all-time list in each.
Besides ranking No.2 in the heptathlon this season, Gittens also ranks No.4 in the nation in the high jump, No.13 in the long jump and 39th in the 100m hurdles. She is positioned even better in the competitive SEC, ranking No. 1 in the heptathlon, No. 2 in the high jump, No. 8 in the long jump, and No.13 in the 100m hurdles.
Surprised at the quick progress
Though a she was a legend in high school track in the state of Tennessee where she became the fourth female athlete to win four consecutive pentathlon titles in state history, Gittens is surprised at how well she has done this season.
“Even though I knew that with my training I would definitely be hitting good marks this season, I was not expecting to be so highly ranked this year. I thought this year was only going to be a learning year and just preparing for the next stage but God had a different plan for me,” Gittens informed during an interview with Sports At Your Fingertips.
Competing in the long jump the same day of the conclusion of the heptathlon at the conference championships, Gittens performed the best she has ever done in the event, improving upon her career best with 6.47m to place 5th.
— Texas A&M Track and Field (@aggietrk) March 10, 2018
She did something similar at nationals, competing in it a day before starting the heptathlon and came just .09m shy of her best. She is not surprised at the significant progress she has made in the horizontal jump this season though.
“I wasn’t surprised about the progress in the long jump because if it was any event I knew I would get better in this year, it would be the long jump. I moved my approach back and now I am a lot better at my take off than ever. I still have a whole lot to learn but I felt like this was a good start for the long jump,” she added.
Gittens left Ensworth High the most decorated female track and field athlete in state history with 17 track titles and expectedly had a lot of suitors but chose the Aggies, not because of its tremendously rich history, but because of its coaching staff and family atmosphere.
The right choice
She is feeling right at home in College Station so far and credits the program for a lot of her early success.
“My coaches and my teammates believe in me and really pushed me further than I thought I was able to go. I definitely got faster and I’m in better shape. I lost weight and my body looks better than ever.”
“My coach at the beginning of the year said he will have us looking amazing by this time of year and he was right. I am proud to wear my team uniform and Coach Henry is a great head coach. He makes this team more than a team. We are a family and I love family,” she beamed.
Impressing a legend
The coach Henry Gittens was referring to is Pat Henry, Head Coach of the Texas A&M Track & Field team and one of the all-time greats.
He is also impressed with her debut collegiate season and thinks she is poised for greatness.
“She’s an outstanding athlete, especially as a freshman to do as well as she has done. This young lady is going to be really good. She’s good now, but in time I think she is really going to develop into a great athlete. She just keeps getting better and better each time she competes,” said the 67 year old Henry.
Quite lofty praises from Henry, who you would think would know a great athlete when he sees one considering his tremendous resume – he is the only coach in NCAA history to win both men’s and women’s track and field national titles in the same year, a feat he has accomplished a whopping five times with two different programs (LSU in 1989 and 1990 and Texas A&M in 2009, 2010 and 2011).
Success rooted in faith
Despite possessing phenomenal talent, great coaches, and a prestigious school track program, Gittens’ success is primarily grounded in faith.
“I would say the main reason for my success is definitely my faith. I tend to get in my head and forget that I can do all things through Christ. I learned to speak things into existence and I know it can be done once God is behind it. He has proven it to me over and over this year,” she praised.
“I told my friends and family in high school that when I get to college I will still be on top and some didn’t believe me but I knew God has something special planned for me.”
Quite strange, after all, she accomplished at the high school level that her friends would doubt her ability to transition to the next level. Well, maybe she needs new friends, but one thing is for sure, she is currently up there at the top amongst the best in the NCAA.
And by all indications will be there for a while.