Tyra Gittens owns 12 state individual championship medallions — tied for the most of any high school female track and field athlete in TSSAA history.
The medals from three years of competing in track and field for Ensworth (Nashville) are all over her bedroom, she said. Some rest on her dresser while others hang on the wall for decoration.
“I have two plaques and my old shoes that I started running track in, which were my older sister’s shoes,” Gittens said. “They’re worn out and my dad wrote ‘Champion’ on them.
“So I have them hung up in between the plaques and medals.”
Such is the life for the three-time defending Division II pentathlon state champion and Texas A&M signee.
Gittens, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, has competed in track and field since the sixth grade. She shares her love of the sport with her father, Sterling, along with her siblings Caroline, Sterling Jr., William, Nikki, Michael and Nsia.
“My older siblings ran track and they didn’t continue,” Tyra said. “My dad ran track in Trinidad before he blew (out) his knee. I saw how much he loved to coach my brothers and sisters. I wanted the same relationship with my dad.”
Gittens burst on the high school scene as a freshman in 2014. She won her first Division II pentathlon title and added a high jump championship.
She followed that up a year later with five more titles, winning the high jump, long jump, 100-meter hurdles and 200 to go with her second pentathlon title. Gittens duplicated her sophomore winnings at state last season.
“She has the highest ceiling out of any athlete that I’ve ever coached,” Ensworth coach Dillon Seigenthaler said. “The sky is the limit. Hopefully, she can continue to compete for championships at the collegiate level.”
Gittens already is eyeing loftier goals. She would like to qualify in compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“A teacher (once) told me, ‘Hey do you know your daughter is beating all of the boys in races,” Sterling Gittens said. “I replied, ‘No way.’ I went to see for myself and I was amazed.”
“She asked me, ‘Daddy, I would like to go to the Olympics. Can you help me?’ I said, ‘Sure, baby.’ And the rest was history.”
Gittens is tied for the most individual girls track titles with former Anderson County standout Josie Hahn, who won 12 medals from 1998-2001. Hahn was later a standout for Vanderbilt.
Gittens also can become the fourth in TSSAA history to win four consecutive state pentathlon state titles and first since former Brentwood Academy standout Victoria Dunlap in 2007.
But her most cherished accomplishment on the track didn’t come in a TSSAA event.
It came when she broke the national AAU heptathlon record for 17- and 18-year-olds in June with 5,337 points.
“I really had to work for that meet,” Gittens said. “I wasn’t just trying to win, I was trying to break the record. I had to give my all in every single event. I started crying when I found out I broke the record because I realized this is what it feels like to work for something you really want.”