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.

 

 

A day after setting a new collegiate record in the pentathlon at the NCAA Nationals, Tyra Gittens won a silver and a bronze medal and set a new school record along the way Friday.

Gittens, who on Thursday, broke Kendall Williams’ five-year-old pentathlon record, cleared 1.90m to win the high jump, becoming the first woman to sweep the pentathlon and the high jump.

The mark was shy of her personal best 1.93m set the day before during the pentathlon, but it was more than enough to hold off South Carolina freshman Rachel Glenn and Georgia’s Anna Hall, who cleared 1.87m second and third, respectively, the latter losing out on the silver medal on the countback.

Two hours later, Gittens, the SEC Female Field Athlete of the Year, went on the hunt for another gold in the long jump but despite uncorking a personal best 6.68m, a new school record, she had to settle for the bronze medal.

Why? Well, Tara Davis of the University of Texas shattered the record of 6.91m that had been held by Jamaica’s Elva Goulbourne since 2002 when she launched out to 6.93m. It was at the championships since Auburn’s Whitney Gipson equalled Golbourne’s mark in 2015.

In addition to being the championship record, the 6.93m was also a meet record and a facility record for Davis.

The silver medal went to Florida’s Claire Bryant who produced her personal best 6.70m.

The bronze medal means that Gittens has earned 26 points for Texas A&M at the nationals, the third-most all-time at an NCAA meet.

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.”

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