Katie Bittner loved running track and playing basketball, but sacrifices had to be made to achieve her ultimate goal.
Bittner desired a soccer scholarship from Purdue, and to get to that level of ability, she needed to be focused on the sport year round. A three-sport standout, Bittner gave up track after her freshman year and basketball after her sophomore season.
With the scholarship secured, Bittner has rejoined her friends for track season her senior year, after having not competed as a sophomore and junior.
“I missed it a lot,” Bittner said. “I missed all the fun times you have with all your friends and the feeling of crossing the finish line and getting first and everyone being proud of you.”
And the Red Devils missed her, too. Not only for her abilities as a hurdler, but also as that additional weapon in relay events, which will be put to good use in Saturday’s West Side Relays.
The versatile Bittner gives coach Lane Custer options.
She’s strong in the hurdles, 400 meters and 800 meters and will be a much-needed acquisition for relay teams, which will be put to use as the Red Devils hit the relay meet portion of their schedule.
“She is a 400/800 person, and that always helps us,” Custer said. “We try to keep a strong tradition in those events. Added to that, her ability to hurdle just helps a lot. She can run a 4×1, 4×4, 4×8 (relays) and hurdle.
“We’re just waiting to see where our best chances are for scoring in the sectional and regional before we figure out what we can do for her.”
It’s been tough the last few years for Bittner.
Watching senior night in the winter, when friends she had played AAU basketball with were being recognized after helping turn the Red Devils back into consistent winners, was especially tough.
In the fall, she starred on the soccer field, leading West Side to consecutive Class A regional titles. In the winter, she tried to make it work with going to basketball practice, followed by a trip to Indianapolis for soccer practices, but it wasn’t feasible. Same with track, which clashes with club soccer.
In the back of her mind, Bittner always knew she’d be back on the track for her senior season.
She still makes trips to Zionsville three times a week for soccer, but also carves time out of her busy schedule to train on her own for track. And being back on the roster gives the Red Devils an added speedster to a team maxed on talented distance runners.
“This year, with the addition of Katie, we can hopefully focus on going to the sectional and doing really well (in shorter distances),” said WL junior Shelby Mann. “Katie will help in just about everything.”
In the end, Bittner admits it was worth it. At least it will be when she takes the field in a Boilermaker jersey next season.
But now, she’s going to make sure she enjoys her final months as a WL athlete.