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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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Tyra Gittens finds identity in national pentathlon success

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A Trinidad native, Tyra Gittens is No. 1 on the Collegiate All-Time Top-10 Performance List in the indoor pentathlon.

Before becoming the No. 1 indoor pentathlon all-time collegiate performer, Tyra Gittens adapted to her surroundings and learned the importance of family.
One of seven children in her household, Gittens has grown in her own path to become one of the greatest Texas A&M track performers in program history. Competing in the heptathlon and pentathlon, Gittens said she finds joy in competing in her sport.
Gittens grew up in Saint Augustine, Trinidad, before moving to Nashville, Tenn., when she was in middle school. Her father, Sterling Gittens, got a job in the United States as a gospel singer and music producer.
“Life was all about music, not even sports,” Tyra said.
She said she remembers her father showing her a large palate of music, sometimes including his own gospel music. There were guitars and various instruments all around their home and oftentimes her father would play for the family. She said her brothers took up music from their dad and are now musicians themselves.
“The women in the family are athletes, and the men are musicians,” Tyra said.
Being the second-youngest sibling, Tyra recalls having lots of fun with her brothers and sisters growing up. There was a sense of pressure with all of her siblings having their own talents and successes in life, she said.
“I always looked at it as, ‘The rest of my family is special, how am I going to stand out?” Gittens said.
Having such a big family, Tyra felt she didn’t need friends, as her siblings were always there. She calls and texts her siblings everyday and feels that family is the most important thing in her life.
Tyra remembers her move from Saint Augustine to Tennessee as a culture shock as she started attending The Ensworth School, a private school. She said she had to be as normal as possible to fit in with her environment. Her accent stood out among the crowd, and that made her want to hide it.
“I remember people asking me to change the way I talked,” Tyra said.
Food and social norms were the biggest adjustments she had to make. She said she started to compete in track and field and never looked back. Track provides a reason to get out of bed everyday and try to be the best version of herself that she can be, she said.
Tyra said she understands the solo nature of track and realizes that she competes on a point scale in the pentathlon and heptathlon, rather than directly against opponents. She said she has no one to blame but herself for both good and bad performances.
Tyra is now on the Collegiate All-Time Top-10 Performance List as No. 1 in the indoor pentathlon and No. 7 for the outdoor heptathlon. She has been a First-Team All-American six times as an Aggie, according to 12thman.com.
Her first days as a student-athlete at A&M were filled with excitement and optimism for her future at the school, she recalled. Now a redshirt junior, she sees the same fire and passion from her freshman teammates.
As she spent more time on campus, she said she made the sport her life and would revolve everything around it. It became who she was, she said, and she would hide behind the persona of being “Tyra Gittens, the track athlete.” She didn’t want to be seen as anything else.
She has a career-high score of 4,746 in the pentathlon and a career-high of 6,274 points in the heptathlon, according to tfrrs.org. She has a personal best of 23.86 in the 200-meter and a personal best of 2:28.22 in the 800-meter. She also competes in the 60-meter hurdles with a personal best of 8.27, 100-meter hurdles with a personal best of 13.21, high jump where her best jump was 1.93m (6-4), and long jump where she has jumped 6.68m (21-11).
Her roommate is fellow multi-athlete Allyson Andress, who Tyra considers her best friend, in and out of competition. They share the same mindset showing up to practice everyday, which is to improve and have fun daily, said Andress.
“We are two peas in a pod,” Andress said. “We always come to practice together and are always the last ones to leave.”
Zhane Smith is also regarded as a great friend to Tyra as they both are upperclassmen and have made the transition from optimistic young freshmen to the team veterans who are expected to lead by example.
“She’s a leader in the sense that she uplifts everyone during practice and always puts her best effort in everytime,” Smith said.
Over her four-year career at A&M, Tyra has done much soul searching and had time to self-reflect on the influence track has had on her life. She said she feels track and field will always be a part of her, just as her race and ethnicity will be, and said she holds great pride in who she is – on and off the track.
“I always hold pride in myself, and I’m comfortable in my own skin,” Tyra said. “Track doesn’t define me, and I know that my journey throughout life is what matters.”
Out of six siblings, 100-plus students at her high school and tens of thousands at A&M, she has found her identity as Tyra Gittens. Her goal moving forward is to qualify for the Olympic Games in the heptathlon for her native country Trinidad and Tobago.

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