Salute to Seniors 7: T. Shelby, K. Lewis, & More

Taiya Shelby (Park Hill)

Q: What was your most memorable race/moment?

A: My most memorable race was our win in the 4x400 at state in 2017. We ran the race around 10pm after the long rain delay. Out of all the rain delays in track history, I'd vote that one to be the craziest. It wasn't until a small pep talk and a few words of wisdom from the coaches before the race that made me realize we had a shot at winning the relay. Being the anchor, it's always nerve wrecking as you watch the whole race go by and then it's all up to you to finish. I think my heart nearly stopped when the gun went off and I saw Teresa come out of the blocks. I wasn't even running yet and I was nervous, but my girl went out there and killed it. After the first exchange we were in a good position and of course my girl Manny did her thing and held us there. Once my girl Jena got the baton she shocked us all and went total beast mode. Then it was my turn. A lot was going through my head while running, but the most memorable moment was seeing my girls cheering behind the fence as I finished the race. Celebrating the win with them was the best feeling ever. 

Q: Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

A: My biggest competitor was definitely Kaitlyn Lewis of Liberty. I'd say we had a friendly competition going on since our freshman year. Seems like we went back and forth in races each meet. She definitely kept me on my toes and I am glad that we were able to compete and push each other to get better over the last four years. 

Q: What was your greatest accomplishment?

A: My greatest accomplishment was trying out the 800m run for the first time this year and winning state. That win still seems unreal. Before my senior year, I wanted nothing to do with the race. I was never really asked to run it at a meet, but my mom had brought up the idea a couple times and I wasn't fond of it. However, my teammates and coaches suggested to try it this year and I liked it. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I thought and I was pleased with the result. I chose to continue running the 800m over the 200m this season. Im now a state champion, so I think I made a pretty good choice. 

Q: If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?

A: I would start running the 800 sooner than I did for sure. Also, I've always wanted to try field events but never was able to. 

Q: What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

A: I think the hardest thing for me was trying out the 400/800 double. It was tough but achievable. Secondly, the college search was very difficult and stressful for me. I hadn't been of much interest until late which was frustrating. After all, I like to say that everything happens for a reason because I am more than excited and pleased with where I am going. 

Q: What will you miss the most?

A: My teammates, without a doubt. The bond we have made is unbelievable. I'll miss dying at practice with them, but turning around and killing it at meets together. Those girls are like my sisters and I'm not so sure what we'll do without each other next year. 

Q: What advice would you give to younger athletes?

A: The best advice I could give is simply just to keep working and stay focused. Looking back to my freshman year, I would have never thought I'd be in the position I am now. Hard work does pay off. If you stay focused and show that you truly want it, there are people out there that will help you go get it. So, work hard, stay focused, and be humble. Especially if you are wanting to compete in college. Also, be proactive with your college search and start early. Lastly, don't be afraid to try something new! 

Q: What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?

A: I'm thankful for my coaches Flem, Hauck, Buford, Self, and Agee. I've built great relationships with them and they've all influenced my performance and overall character. Coach Flem and Hauck have impacted me as an athlete but also a young lady. Coach Buford has impacted my performance, success, and college goal. Coach Self and Agee have always been encouraging and helpful with training. I'm grateful to have had great coaches who believed in me and pushed me to succeed in meeting my goals. 

Q: What are your college plans?

A: I will continue my academic and running career at Vanderbilt University.

Q: Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?

A: I would like to say thank you to Coach Buford. He has been super helpful, this year especially. He has taken a lot of his own time to help me and was willing to do a lot. Buford has pushed me to get after it and go be 'that kid'. He taught me patience and mental toughness. He's the reason I'm in the position I am now and I am so very thankful. 

I would also like to say thank you to Coach Hauck. I don't feel like I say thank you enough to her or give her the credit she deserves. Coach Hauck is one of the most caring people I know. She always has us athletes best interests at heart. So, thank you Coach Hauck for all of the love, all of the support, and even all of the hard workouts you put me through. I'm sad that you are done coaching, but know that the time you have put in is well appreciated. 

But really, I'd like to make sure I say thank you to everyone who has supported me in any way. 

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: Can't forget about my momma. Thanks mom for always having my back and pushing me to succeed. And thanks for supporting me at every meet, no matter what. Love you! 

Q: What was the funniest thing that happened during your running career?

A: I ran the 800m at KU Relays this year, and as soon as the gun went off and I took my first step, my spike came off. I ran the whole race with one spike and it had been raining some. I was not amused at all during the race. I can remember seeing Coach Buford at the first 200 mark and expressing how frustrated and upset I was. However, it's definitely a funny story to look back at now. Going forward my teammates and coaches would joke around and ask me if my shoes were tied or if I had on the right socks before my races.