It has been said that the winner of track and field’s Olympic Decathlon is the World’s Greatest Athlete. If that is true, then it is also true the winner of high school’s pentathlon or decathlon is the state’s greatest athlete. Well, today the greatest high school athlete that Tennessee has ever produced signed her letter of intent with Texas A&M.
Ensworth’s senior Tyra Gittens is the most decorated high school track and field athlete in the history of the TSSAA. She has won 12 state titles, including the grueling pentathlon three times. She has won the long jump twice, the 100 hurdles twice, the 200 meters twice, and the high jump three times. Gittens also is the national AAU heptathlon record holder for 17-18 year olds. Oh yeah, she still has the spring track season to come. She could win five more state titles. Last year she became the first athlete in TSSAA history to score 50 points (1st place in 5 events) two years in a row.
Today, in a signing ceremony at Ensworth in front of classmates, Gittens signed her letter of intent with Texas A&M. I sat down with Tyra afterward for an exclusive interview.
SportsNashville: Why Texas A&M?
Tyra Gittens: It was a comfort I felt when I went to the school. I really liked the team and the coaches. I got a real sense of their love of the school. I believe they will help me the most to get what I want.
SN: What do you want?
TG: I want to be the best.
SN: Are the Olympics a goal of yours?
TG: Very much so.
SN: Would you go for Trinidad and Tobago or the U.S.A? (Note: Gittens is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and a legal resident of the USA)
TG: Probably Trinidad.
SN: What other schools did you consider?
TG: Arkansas was my next choice. Then Alabama, UT, and Georgia.
SN: Who pushes you the most?
TG: Probably my dad. When I don’t want to train, he’s like “Tyra, you have all these athletes that wish they had the talent you have. You can’t be lazy. You can’t take it for granted.” I believe I push myself as well, too.
SN: Do you plan on competing just as hard in the spring for 5 more titles?
After my interview with Tyra, Mark Sutton, the fitness instructor at Ensworth, pulled me aside and told me, “Tyra is probably the most gifted and talented young lady I’ve ever been around in my career which is now 18 years. I hope everyone has the opportunity to come out and watch her run, jump, and compete because you are looking at a future Olympian. And it’s a pleasure to lay your eyes on such a sight. It’s unbelievable”
On a personal note, I concur with what Sutton said. I have seen many athletes in my day, but none as consistently dominant as Tyra. She first caught my eye at the TSSAA State Meet in 2014 when she high jumped 5’8″ as a freshman. I have been a big fan ever since. She brings it every event and makes it look easy. She’s the best I have ever seen in high school. And she does it with a smile and an amazing attitude.
Tyra is humble, coachable and the product of a great family. Her parents are Sterling and Debra Gittens. They came to the USA 16 years ago. Sterling is a singer/songwriter. They have 6 children – sons Sterling,Jr., William, and daughters Kinda, Nikki, Tyra, and Nsia. Mr. Gittens told me, ‘We see ourselves as a factory. We manufacture good children.”
They sure do.