By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Most athletes dream of, standing atop the podium, being recognized in Sports Illustrated, and becoming a champion. Cierra White is making those dreams her reality.
The Texas Tech senior sprinter is coming off the best season of her career where she racked up the accolades in the process. But rather than pointing to the accolades, White instead shows how she was able to get to the top.
“Over the past year, I have grown a lot with all the things I have been through,” White said. “The experience with the United States national track team has helped me grow as an athlete, and I have experienced more that makes me better. Now I know exactly what it takes, and how hard I need to work to get to my goals.”
That hard work has led to an impressive resumé.
After already claiming Big 12 individual titles and All-American honors a year ago, White was recently named the USATF National Athlete of the Week, a first for any track and field athlete at Texas Tech.
“That was so surprising,” White said. “I didn't expect that, so that was kind of shocking. But it meant a lot to me. I felt appreciated, and I felt that all my hard work paid off. I was happy I was able to represent Tech, and be the Athlete of the Week, and show that we are a good program.”
White’s rise in the ranks has benefited a Lady Raider track program that enters the 2015 indoor season ranked 17th nationally in the preseason U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country (USTFCCCA) preseason poll.
Backed by solid returners such as White, this is the highest preseason ranking for the Lady Raiders since 2012.
“I would say the coaches are one of the biggest reasons for the growth of the program,” White said. “They make us come together as a team, athletes and coaches. The coaches help us and bring us together. We have team meals, we come together as a family, and they make sure we stay that way.”
But a winning program needs winning athletes, and White has proven herself a winner.
Soon after her performance at the NACAC Championships for Team USA, White was featured in Sports Illustrated's popular series, “Faces in the Crowd.”
“It felt really good [to be featured in Sports Illustrated],” White said. “One day one of our trainers texted me and said, ‘Hey you are in Sports Illustrated!’ I just thought ‘wow.’ I didn't know that would happen. It just felt good to be recognized in there as well. I am not just a local Texas Tech athlete but people around the world see my talent.”
While White calls Texas Tech home during the season, she comes from much farther than many athletes, calling Philadelphia home.
“It’s not that hard [being away from home],” White said. “I know all my family and friends want me to do well. They’re always calling and checking on me, and even people from home are still writing stories about me. So it feels good to hopefully know I made a difference. For example, I went home one time and I had a little girl come up to me and talk to me because she runs track. So it just feels good to know that I am helping to inspire those from home. I just want to make them and my family proud.”
As she makes them proud, White points out that she is not the same sprinter that came to Lubbock for the first time in 2012. She alludes to her growth and development as a reason for her success.
“Coming here as a freshman I was really nervous,” White said. “I was kind of shy, and I tried to kind of sit back on the sidelines. But as time went on, I became more comfortable in my skin, and I realized I am actually pretty good. I’m not just a freshman coming to Tech, but I am actually making a name for myself. I’ve become more mature on the track, so I know what it takes to go to the next level. I know how hard I have to practice and compete.”
Yet as White does make a name for herself, and continually brings in awards, accolades, and medals, she singles out a different attribute of which she is most proud.
“I’m most proud of my personality,” White said. “I feel like I’m pretty nice, and that’s what has helped me get to where I am and remaining humble. I enjoy those around me, and letting others enjoy my spirit. And that helps me remain calm and focused as well.”
A calm and focused athlete is a dangerous competitor to her opponents. Couple those attributes with talent, and that athlete becomes a winner.
Cierra White is certainly a winner.