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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘I am an Aggie for life’

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Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

Tyra Gittens competed in ten events throughout the competition including the heptathlon, the open long jump, open high jump and the open 100m hurdles. 

As her 14-hour flight to the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo took off, Tyra Gittens’ dreams grew closer in every passing second.
Seven-year-old Gittens always envisioned this moment, and 23-year-old Gittens could not believe this was her life.
As Gittens strolled through the Olympic Village upon arrival, her role models consumed her attention. Even though she was competing against them, she could not contain her excitement and even stopped a couple of her favorites to ask for autographs.
All the work and preparation led her to this moment, surrounded by athletes who, to her, represented the definition of greatness. Meanwhile, Gittens was able to view these women as the humans they were and not just athletes she idolized.
Once at the stadium, it set in that Gittens was, indeed, one of those athletes, but that did not stop her from preparing just as any other first-time Olympian would.
The night before her event, Gittens clipped her number on her uniform and packed her bags, as if she were an eager child ready for the first day of school. Knowing she would not sleep at all, Gittens anxiously snuggled into bed around 6 p.m. with no loved ones to call because of the time difference.
“My fiance and my parents were all asleep and I was saying to myself, ‘Who am I supposed to call? I am dying over here,’” Gittens said. “When I woke up, if there was an award for how fast you could prepare for a competition, I would win. I was ready and downstairs in three seconds.”
As overwhelming thoughts swarmed her mind the day of her event, Gittens kept repeating to herself that “it [was] just another meet” and imagined herself in the presence of E.B. Cushing Stadium, now 6,590 miles away in College Station.
Representing Trinidad and Tobago as well as A&M, Gittens placed 10th in the women’s long jump, which was the only event she competed in. As one of the younger track and field athletes there, Gittens said she was satisfied with her performance, but knows she has much room to grow.
“I had just come off a very long and tiring season. I knew I could function and still produce great work [even while] fatigued,” Gittens said. “My coach was not with me, so I kind of just had to wing it. I am proud of how I adapted, and 10th place isn’t bad at all. This time was definitely an experience; next time, it’s business.”
Gittens’ athletic career started at a young age where she spent most of her time in a gymnasium balancing on beams and perfecting her tumbling. As a gymnast, technique, posture and strength were all critical aspects of the sport in order to do well, which later on assisted her track career.
At the age of six, Gittens decided it was time to retire the leotard. However, Gittens’ competitive spirit never died, and at 13, she slipped on her first pair of spikes and hit the track.
Looking back at her childhood, the Gittens family moved from Saint Augustine, Trinidad, to Nashville, Tenn., where Gittens attended The Ensworth School. In high school, Gittens racked up 17 outdoor state titles in five different events and decided to bring her talents down to A&M, a culture she was not familiar with, but eventually adapted to.
“When I was a freshman, I thought the chants were a little obnoxious,” Gittens said. “Once I got older, I realized this is a part of being an Aggie. It’s amazing how Aggies help other Aggies. Aggies stick together and Aggies get things done.”
During her four-year career as an Aggie, she captured six school records in different events including indoor and outdoor long jump, high jump, the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon. Her plethora of awards, titles and records speak for themselves, as seen with her placement on the 2021 Bowerman Watch List.
Looking deeper at her career as a successful athlete, times were not always sunny and bright.
The Summer Olympic Games were originally scheduled for 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the events back until 2021. Gittens said she was grateful for the delay because she felt she would not have been ready in 2020, adding that her mentality was not where it needed to be and she took some time during the pandemic to alter it.
“It was hard not being around my teammates and coach for training,” Gittens said. “It really showed my lack of discipline on my own. I had to do a lot of soul searching. I had to break down in order to rebuild.”
If it was not for now-fiance Donovan Spotsville, Class of 2018, Gittens said she would not have developed into the woman she is now.
The love story between the two Aggies started just as any modern day romance — on Tinder. The now-engaged couple swiped right, knowing a three-year age gap separated them, but that did not prevent the love and support they had for each other.
“He definitely played a big part in my development,” Gittens said. “It’s motivating to be around people like that. For a while, our relationship was me learning from him, because I did have a lot to learn.”
Throughout Gittens’ college career, Spotsville, a die-hard Aggie, attended all the events he could and even strengthened her mind off the track as well. The couple got engaged in September of 2021 and plan on starting a life together very soon.
“It’s hard to have a bad time around her,” Spotsville said. “I have never met anyone that is so happy all the time. I think a lot of people could use that type of personality in their life.”
Gittens, who graduated in December, announced her decision not to return for her final season at A&M on Jan. 17, and will be moving to jumpstart the rest of her professional career.
Although her time at A&M has come to a close, Gittens said she will never forget the way the university transformed her and is proud of the legacy she has left in Aggieland.

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