Six days after her 23rd birthday, Tyra Gittens gifted herself the heptathlon title on what was for her a bittersweet final day of the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

In what she described as the hardest meet of her life, the Texas A&M junior topped the heptathlon high jump (1.84m), long jump (6.64) and 200m (23.79) on the way to her second-best score of 6285 points that was more than enough for victory but 135 points off the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420.

It was, however, 218 more of the University of Miami’s Michelle Atherley. The Miami senior, who was the fastest in the 100m hurdles (13.15), scored 6067 points for the silver medal. University of Texas freshman Kristine Blazevica scored 5984 points for the bronze medal.

Putting it simply, after three days of gruelling competition, Gittens just ran out of gas. She literally fell across the finish line to complete the heptathlon 800m in which she was 19th overall, scoring 707 points for her time of 2:28.88.

Her legs were sapped because after the long jump on Thursday in which she won a silver medal, Gittens then had four events in the heptathlon on Friday before completing the other three on Saturday even while contending for individual honours in the high jump.

She just managed to complete the high jump 10 minutes before competing in the heptathlon 800m, her final event of the meet.

The athlete, who has a season-best of 1.95m was only able to clear 1.87m, good enough for third place behind A&M teammate, Jamaica’s Lamara Distin, who cleared a personal best 1.90m to win the silver medal. The gold medal went to South Carolina freshman, Rachel Glenn, who cleared a personal-best 1.93m.

Gittens just missed out on long-jump gold on Thursday when she soared out to 6.68m, two centimetres shy of the winning mark of 6.70m by Texas sophomore Tara Davis.

 Jasmine Moore of Georgia jumped 6.65m for the bronze medal.

 

 

Strange as it may sound, Tyra Gittens is both happy and disappointed with her record-breaking performance in the heptathlon at the SEC Championships at Bryan College Station in Texas last weekend.

The 22-year-old Trinidadian who attends Texas A&M University scored a personal best 6418 points to win the two-day event. Her score which was just two points off the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420 points is also a championship-leading effort as well as a meet and facility record. 

“I am proud of where I am. I am proud of my accomplishments. I hope the world sees that I have so much potential and I have so much more room to grow. This is just the beginning,” she said.

Along the way, Gittens achieved several personal milestones, including a massive personal lifetime best in the long jump of 6.96, which qualifies her for the Olympics this summer and a personal best and a national record 1.95m for the high jump and a centimetre shy of the Olympic standard.

It was also the first time in history that a woman had jumped 1.95m in the high jump and beyond 6.95m in the long jump in the same heptathlon. Gittens now holds national records for the high jump outdoors and indoors, the long jump outdoors and indoors, the pentathlon and the heptathlon.

However, she wasn’t satisfied and revealed her true ambitions, believing she is capable of so much more.

“I don’t like to talk about my goals publicly because then people take it as ‘Oh, she’s trying to talk smack’ but I want people to hold me accountable when I say this. I want to be the ultimate heptathlete and that means breaking Jackie Joyner’s record and that’s what I’m going for.

 “This is my first time saying that publicly but I have never been at a point in my life when I’ve felt so confident saying that, and after this weekend, even though my heptathlon wasn’t what I wanted, my mentality and how I pushed through one of the hardest weekends but one of the best weekends of my life, I am ready and I know, I really think I can get this world record.”

 It is that lofty goal and it is the accompanying mentality that has her experiencing mixed feelings about her record-breaking weekend. Joyner-Kersee’s heptathlon record, which has stood since 1988, is 7291 points and it explains why Gittens wasn’t so happy with her performance last weekend because she understands that if she is to break that record, she has to be better at all her disciplines, not just two or three.

 “The long jump and the high jump were the highlights of my meet. I rarely surprise myself but I definitely surprised myself in the long jump,” she the Texas A&M senior said.

 “The high jump wasn’t necessarily a surprise. I knew this is where I wanted to be around this time. In the long jump, I didn’t expect to reach 6.90 so soon. I know I could do it, I knew I could be up there but I was thinking later on in my career, like years later.”

However, as good as she was in the long and high jumps, Gitten concedes that her performance in several other disciplines did not meet her expectations and it was a bitter pill to swallow.

 “The shot put definitely hurt me, just because of how inconsistent it was. It was embarrassing for me to come off such a high in the high jump, not to be able to gather myself correctly for the shot put. I thought I did but I still had a lot of adrenalin and excitement from the high jump and it never allowed me to focus on the shot put and it just didn’t click,” she said of her 658-point 11.96m throw that was well short of her 13.58m throw that earned her 807 points in a heptathlon on May 8.

 She was equally devastated by how poor she was in the 800m that she completed in 2:31.97 and which she said came as a shock.

 “The 800 was a surprise. I did not expect to run that slow. I started the race and normally I have someone yelling my 100m splits but this time there were two events going on so my coach wasn’t able to so he put some people to say the times. I didn’t hear them and so I was kind of running blindly and it wasn’t until the last 150 when I saw the finish-line time board and I saw that I was way behind my pace,” she said.

“I honestly started tearing up running down the straightaway because I knew I didn’t set myself up in the other events like the shot put and the hurdles, even though my long jump and high jump were great, the Hep was not very consistent for me.” 

Such is the mentality of the effervescent Trinidadian that she has chosen to focus on the silver lining rather than dwell on the dark clouds.

 “That being said, everything happens for a reason. I was very impressed with myself that my hep was a pretty bad one. The things that saved me, the high jump, my 200 and long jump because everything else was not where I wanted to be at all,” she confessed, “the hurdles, shot put, javelin even though it was PB in the Hep for me, I see myself a little farther along than 40 metres. The 800 definitely broke my heart.”

She was devastated to come so close to the Olympic standard. 

“Being only two points away from the standard is definitely tough to swallow because it was just two points and I knew what I needed to do but at the end of the day, it is what it is. It happened. I came out with an Olympic standard and literally kissing the other standards,” she said. 

“I am on pace. I knew my open events would come before my Hep because it is a lot harder to put together than get one jump. I am not worried. I am not stressing. I am actually above my pace for what I want to do and the next Hep is going to be bigger and better because I am going to come in ready to be more consistent and ready to stay focused. 

“I want to shine. I want to be the ultimate heptathlete, meaning I want to be consistently good, amazing in some (events) and consistently good in others. I would love to be a Jackie Joyner and be amazing at all seven but that’s not my reality, so you have to take advantage of what you’re really good at and then you have to work and stay focused on what you’re not so gifted in.”

 Gittens also finished second in the individual high jump, clearing 1.89m. She was also fourth in the long jump with a 6.56m leap. For her efforts, she was named United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athlete of the Week.

 

Tyra Gittens believes things are falling into place for another great performance in the heptathlon at this weekend’s SEC Championships. Her confidence would have been further buoyed by encouraging performances at the Aggie Invitational at Bryan-College Station in Texas on Saturday.

Texas A&M's Tyra Gittens was super excited about her new personal best in the heptathlon this weekend but acknowledged that there is still room for a lot of improvement. This is especially true if he wants to achieve her goal of competing in the multi-event discipline at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The 22-year-old Trinidadian, the 2021 NCAA pentathlon champion competing in her first heptathlon is more than two years scored an NCAA-leading 6274 points after completing the seven events at the Texas A&M Invitational held at Bryan-College Station in Texas on Friday and Saturday.

She won all four disciplines in windy conditions on Friday. She opened up with a time of 13.14 in the 100m hurdles for 1103 points, cleared 1.82m in the high jump, scoring 1003 points and won the shot put with a throw of 12.85m that earned her 717 points. In the final event of the day, she won the 200m sprint in 23.33, scoring 1046 points.

She returned on Saturday morning winning the long jump with a leap of 6.67m that earned her 1062 points. She only managed 631 points for the javelin and then rounded out the competition with a 2:28.52 run in the 800m for 712 points.

“Mood for a huge personal best, new school record, and an NCAA leading 6274 points in my first heptathlon in forever! Still so much to work on and I can’t wait to recover and get back into training” she posted on Instagram afterwards, very much aware of the work that she needs to get done if she is to book a ticket to Tokyo.

The 6247 points she scored is still 173 shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420 points.

 

Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens wants to wrap up qualification for the Olympic heptathlon as soon as the outdoor season begins, but if she doesn’t, she is confident that there are other ways for her to get to Tokyo.

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