HEBER CITY — What more could a high school junior athlete do after repeating as state champion? Is there a motivating factor to come back your senior year and do it again?
For Wasatch High School track star, Kaitlin Walker, the goal is no longer the gold medal. That may be easy to say for a young girl with six of those gold medals already hanging around her neck. But it’s the state record in the 300-meter hurdles that drives her now.
At the Utah State Track and Field Championships at BYU last weekend, Walker repeated as first-place finisher in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. She also ran the anchor leg of the Wasps’ gold-medal winning 4x400 relay team — an exact repeat of her accomplishments in 2012 as a sophomore.
“When I was a freshman and finished fifth, I decided right there and then to dedicate myself to finish better,” Walker said. “I guess you could say I did that last year.”
Walker is a talented athlete with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Her outlook on her training and the way she approaches her goals is enlightening, if not humorous.
She repeatedly uses phrases like “the faster you run, the faster you’re done,” and referred to cross-country training as “hours of pain.”
She is extremely confident and knows exactly what she wants to accomplish in one moment, then unsure of herself in the next.
“I get so stressed out,” she said, when talking about the night before a meet. “There are so many things that can go wrong once you get out there. No amount of training can stop that.”
Perhaps the soon-to-be-senior is being a little hard on herself. Ever since she put on her spikes, she has done nothing but be competitive.
Wasatch head track coach Brad Foster said his young hurdler is a success because of her individual work ethic. “Here is a person who started seriously working on hurdles her sophomore year and who hasn't taken a huge break since,” Foster said. “Kaitlin has worked so hard to get to where she is now — four individual state championship races in two years ... not including her two state championship participations on the girls 4x400 relay team. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a more dedicated young lady.”
Walker, who is the cross-country team captain at Wasatch, said she doesn’t think twice about not giving it her all when it comes to training. “You only hurt yourself by not working on your own when it comes to track,” she said. “No coaches are calling you at six in the morning and telling you to go run you just have to do it on your own.”
It’s that disciplined goal-oriented mindset that separates a state champ in an individual performance-driven sport such as track and field from the rest. Walker knows that to succeed and compete on the next level, it is up to her to better her preparation.
Walker was invited to run in the Great Southwest Invitational, a prestigious invite for athletes across the country, but has decided to recharge her batteries for a couple of weeks before beginning a summer of speed training.
“I was excited to get asked and was all set to go,” Walker said. “But after talking it over with my family and coaches, we decided that it would be best to just continue working on my training. That event is still three weeks away and I just want to focus on my summer workouts.”
The summer workouts will take place in Maryland. Walker has a family member who resides in the East Coast state and will be taking a long visit there for personal workouts with a former Olympian in July.
“I’m really excited about going there,” Walker said smiling. “I have so many things to improve on, but speed is the No. 1 priority,” she added. “My technique and things as far as hurdling are pretty good right now — except for my front leg a little bit, so I am really excited to just work on my speed.”
If Walker is to challenge the state record — held by friend and fellow competitor Brenna Porter of Skyview High School — she will need to shave a second and a half off her personal best. The record in the 300-meter hurdle is 41.54 and Walker’s personal best is 42.97.
Walker’s time is good enough to be the fastest recorded in 3A history, but not enough for the entire state.
“I would love to win the gold medals again next year, but if I don’t get the state record I will be disappointed," said the hurdler, who is currently ranked in the top 40 nationally according to Max Preps. “It’s really just one of the things that drives me everyday.”
High school junior athletes are not allowed to formally talk with college coaches until after July 1, but the Wasatch star knows she will be sought after to compete at the college level.
“That’s definitely the goal after Wasatch,” Walker said. “I would love to go to BYU. That would be awesome to be asked by them. But I’m interested in going to the best place for track — no matter where that is,” Walker added.
“After running in Arcadia (California) this past April, I got so much good feedback and advice, I can’t help but wonder how far I could go in a place like that.”
First things first, however, for the two-time state champion. A solid cross-country season for her Wasps followed by a state record in the 300-meter hurdles awaits her challenge.
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews Preps for your area, enquire at 801.237.2143.
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