Going for the gold


Submitted by: Caitlin Garrett

Garrett gets ready to jump over the hurdle in one of her laps at the National Junior Olympics

Taylor Chronert, Staff Reporter

Cross country runner sophomore Caitlin Garrett was led up to the pedestal at the AAU National Junior Olympics where she beat out 20 other girls in her event for a gold Olympic medal. A big smile was on her face, as people were cheering her name and applauding for her as the medal went over her head and onto her neck. She stood there on the pedestal, pleased at what she accomplished. 

“I was so amazed with myself, because I think I usually underestimate my abilities, and I didn’t think that I would ever be able to win a national competition,” Garrett said. “I was just so happy with everything I accomplished and I was working really hard to get to that moment.”

Garrett competed in the 2K steeplechase event, an obstacle race in which a competitor runs five laps around the track and with each lap, there’s one single waterbarrier in which you have to jump over. 

“The single waterbarrier requires a very specific technique to properly complete without losing too much energy or too many seconds in your race,” Garrett said. “I was so scared that I would go out too fast, because I feel like most of the time I limit myself and my races by slowing down in the beginning and then catching everybody at the end.” 

Before she found out that she would compete in the Junior Olympics, Garrett competed and raced at Trinity University, and she found out a month prior to the Junior Olympics, that she gets to be one of the people who gets to race in the national competition.

“I didn’t even know I was going to compete in the Junior Olympics until later in the year,” Garrett said. “I always heard about it and I thought it was a really fun meet and an amazing opportunity that I wish I could’ve had, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I kind of realized that I had the potential to compete in it.”

Leading up to the competition, Garrett did a lot of training to prepare her for the 2K steeplechase event. Garrett said that this event wasn’t a very common event to race in  and she had a hard time finding areas that had steeples and waterbarriers for her to practice. She didn’t let that stop her and instead used any other items that were available.

“Since they are so rare, it was really hard to find a waterbarrier to jump on,” Garrett said. “No matter how many schools we went to, we never found an actual waterbarrier that I could practice on. I  jumped hurdles on the track instead, and even though it wasn’t the same level as the waterbarrier, it was still as much as I could do to prepare.”

When she arrived in Houston the day of the national competition and her race, Garrett said that she felt a bit nervous.

“I always get nervous before my races and since this was a national level, I was much more nervous than the recent races I have done,” Garrett said. “When we started the race though, I wasn’t nervous at all, and I knew that I prepared so hard, and it was as much as I could do.”

As she was in the first lap of her race, Garrett said that she felt the strangest feeling of confidence and decided to kick it up a notch with her speed and take it out a bit faster. 

“Even though I was terrified that I would get too worn out and slow down, I was so happy that I stuck with it, and I ended up speeding up a bit more at the very end and in the last two laps, and I just felt like I gave it everything I had,” Garrett said. 

After her race and the celebration of her getting first place dialed down, Garrett realized that with her time of 7:06:56 she was super close to breaking the national record of 7:06:28 but was off by .3 seconds.

“I was absolutely devastated when I found out that I didn’t break the record  but then again, I’ve worked so hard to achieve the time I had,” Garrett said. “I really feel like if I work more on my form with the water jump, then I can probably knock off a second for that, and it would get me closer to breaking seven which is my goal for next year.”

Garrett has always heard about the National Junior Olympics and has always wanted to compete in it, however she always believed that she wasn’t at the level of competing in a national race and wouldn’t be able to do it. 

“I underestimate myself a lot, but with a lot of persistence and hard work just this past year, I’ve found the drive and the motivation to kind of push through and achieve something that just a year ago would have been impossible,” Garrett said. “It was such an amazing opportunity that I’m so glad that I got to participate in, and definitely a life changing experience that I will remember forever.”

What’s next for Garrett’s running career is that she wants to reach her 5K personal record and also wants to run at Nike Nationals.

“Nike Nationals is something that people on our cross country team run every year later in the season and my goal is to get my 5K personal record there,” Garrett said. “It’s kind of like a higher level meet, and I would be just so amazed if I could work really hard this season and accomplish things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do.”

Something Garrett learned from track and cross country season is how much hard work and extra practice can change the result for the better.

“I initially thought that I would try to break my 5K personal record, and I want to stick with that because I’ve been running a bit faster than I was last year, especially now that I’m running with Vandegrift every day, and we are consistently practicing,” Garrett said. “I’ve run around 400 days in a row, so I feel like that really adds to my ability and allows an athlete to get to a higher speed, so I’m really glad I stuck through with that, and I hope it benefits me in this upcoming track season.”