Over the next two weeks, Tracy Pitts will be defending her region title and looking to improve on last year's fourth-place state meet finish in the 100-meter hurdles, as well as bettering her region meet runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles.
Not bad for someone who started hurdling on a lark.
Pitts, a senior at Soldotna High School, said her first 100 hurdles race came in a meet the week before the borough championships during her sophomore season.
"I was only in three events, so I was joking around, 'Let me do hurdles,'" Pitts said. "I ran and wound up getting second. Then my fourth or fifth race was prelims at state. Before my first race, I had never gone over any."
Pitts didn't make it to the podium for the hurdles as a sophomore -- she did place sixth in the long jump at the meet -- but became a full-time hurdler for her junior season, adding the 300 hurdles to her repertoire.
Pitts attributes her past success to raw athleticism, and she said she's been working hard this season on her form and technique with the hopes of clearing the barriers even faster.
"A lot of things like this come naturally. I consider myself well-rounded," Pitts said of her reasons for success. "Maybe it's because I'm aggressive. That's part of it, and because I'm so competitive -- I hate losing, so that motivates me to work on it."
Pitts said it is her footspeed between hurdles, rather than her technique in clearing them, that has allowed her to compete with the state's best. Entering last weekend's borough meet, her times were among the fastest in the state in both hurdle events.
"She's starting to really develop some good hurdling skills," said Soldotna track coach Mark Devenney. "That's why she dropped from a high 48 (seconds) to a low 47 (in the 300 hurdles), and we expect her to go even faster."
Pitts' athletic well-roundedness shows in the list of sports in which she has participated. In addition to starting her track career as a successful jumper and finishing as a successful hurdler, she played varsity basketball as a sophomore and has been a football and basketball cheerleader for the Stars. She also loves soccer and plays in the Boys and Girls Club program over the summer.
Pitts took the first semester off from activities this year to work in the dental office of her father, Dr. Dan Pitts. Pitts would like to become a dentist herself, and is planning to attend the University of Arizona for her undergraduate work and moving on to the University of Louisville to finish her studies.
Pitts rejoined the cheerleading squad at the end of the basketball season and went to a national championship meet with squad after helping the Stars earn grand champion recognition at the state competition.
"I gave her my coach's award this year for her outstanding leadership," said Soldotna cheerleading coach Jenniffer Rosin. "When she did come on the squad, she resparked everything and everyone. We had an outstanding season, and she kind of came in and relit the fire."
Rosin pointed out that Pitts also gives academics a high priority. As an example, Rosin said, Pitts flew to Anchorage to participate in an academic decathlon instead of driving so she could participate in a practice before her departure. She had to miss a Friday game, but was back in time to cheer for Saturday's games.
Rosin also said Pitts is a natural leader.
"Even as a junior, she was one of our strongest leaders," Rosin said. "Personality-wise, she's encouraging and positive. Plus, she's just fun."
Devenney also noted Pitts' leadership skills.
"She really has developed into a wonderful leader," Devenney said. "I take all the hurdlers and say, 'Tracy, here's what we want to get done,' and she'll do it. She's very positive with all the younger athletes. It's really wonderful to have someone like that."
Pitts said she was feeling nostalgic about her senior year winding down, wishing it could last longer, but once she's on the track, she's looking forward to going as fast as she can.
"(My goal is) pretty much to do better than last year," Pitts said. "I'd love to win (at state), and I feel like I can if I do everything right, but it won't break my heart if I don't get first."
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