Two weeks ago, following her sixth-place finish at the SEC Indoor Championships, Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens said she was coming for the NCAA pentathlon record.

“These two weeks are going to be very important. I have a lot to work on,” she said. “I am going to use it to train and just get consistent and I am coming for the NCAA record.”

She wasn’t kidding.

On today’s first day of the NCAA National Indoor Championships in Arkansas, Gittens smashed the collegiate, facility and meet records held by Kendell Williams to crown herself NCAA national champion.

 On March 11, 2016, Williams of the University of Georgia set the collegiate and meet records of 4703 points. She also held the facility record of 4678 points set on March 14, 2015. These are no more as the 22-year-old Trinidadian scored a personal best 4746 points to take gold and exact revenge on Georgia’s Anna Hall, who won the SEC title a fortnight ago.

Hall secured the silver with 4401 points while Erin Marsh of Duke scored 4344 points for third.

Gittens, who had set a personal best 4612 points on January 29, started out well-running 8.27s for the 60m hurdles, the second-best time overall behind Marsh’s 8.13s.

The time, though, earned Gittens 1068 points. She would then earn another 1145 points in the long jump after clearing a personal best and school record 1.93m.

Her worst score of the day came in the shot put when a mark of 13.86m earned her 785 points.

By then she had established a lead of 277 points over Hall going into the final two events. At the SEC’s, trouble with the long jump run up saw her struggle, only managing a mark of 4.11m. She had no such trouble today leaping to 6.58m, just four centimetres shy of her personal best of 6.62m.

With only the 800m to come, Gittens needed 673 points to break the collegiate record. Her time of 2:28.22 was the 15th best time of the competitors but it earned 715 points that took her past the previous records.

It was all about the comeback for Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens, who rebounded from a disappointing first day at last week’s SEC Indoor Championships to win two gold medals and consequently, the coveted Cliff Harper Award for scoring the most points.

It was her second hold on the award and the first time an athlete has won it outright since 1997.

In two weeks, she will seek pentathlon redemption at the NCAA National Championships where she intends to break the collegiate record of 4703 points held by Georgia’s Kendall Williams.

“To win the Cliff Harper Award for the second time was definitely a good feeling. After my performance on Thursday, I was definitely down, I was definitely embarrassed, I was definitely upset but it’s all about the comeback. It’s all about how you come back from a terrible performance,” she told Sportsmax.TV.

“We are all human. We are all going to have those days as athletes but I was very proud of myself. This is my first time winning two gold medals at SECs and I was so happy to be able to put up 23 points. It’s reassuring knowing my team can rely on me and I know I can rely on myself to come back from devastating situations.”

Expected to do well in the pentathlon, after scoring a personal best 4612 points at the Texas Tech Invitational on January 29, things could not have gone worse for the 22-year-old Trinidadian in her efforts to defend the title she won in 2020.

The worst of those performances came in the long jump where she only managed to register a mark of 4.11m, well below her season-best of 6.62m.

She was forced to settle for sixth place, her score of 3818 points, a massive 703 shy of the 4501 scored by the newly crowned 2021 champion, Anna Hall of Georgia.

Despondent and embarrassed by her poor showing, Gittens turned to family for refuge.

“After talking to my family and talking to my sister, she played college volleyball, and she said anytime a negative thought would come in she would grab the thought and just throw it away and all of last night (Thursday) that is what I was doing,” she revealed.

“I wouldn’t even let it linger. As soon as I felt some negativity, I just grabbed it and threw it away and it worked because today (Friday) it was only positive and negative Tyra was out of sight.”

It worked.

Within an hour late Friday, Gittens won two gold medals for Texas A&M. First, cleared 1.89m – just shy of her personal best 1.91m - in the high jump to defeat LSU’s Abigail O’Donohogue and avenge her pentathlon loss to Hall, who were second and third, respectively, each having cleared 1.86m.

She then equalled her personal best (6.62m) to win the long jump ahead of LSU’s Aliyah Whisby (6.61m) and Georgia’s Titiana Marsh (6.39m).

“Today (Friday) was all about beating myself because yesterday I let the negative Tyra, the bad Tyra that we don’t like to see, overtake,” said an elated Gittens afterwards.

“I let her win yesterday and today (Friday) I relaxed, I had fun. I did everything that I wanted to do with executing and I cannot be happier. I am exhausted, but I am so proud of myself, and I am very happy.”

The comeback completed, redemption comes next and that will be the point of her focus over the next two weeks.

“These two weeks are going to be very important. I have a lot to work on,” she said. “I am going to use it to train and just get consistent and I am coming for the NCAA record.”

Tyra Gittens goes into tomorrow’s SEC Championships in a confident mood seeing how well she has performed indoors this season.

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