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Sat, Mar 9
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala.  – Conventional wisdom today says children must start at a young age in their chosen sport if they want long-term success.

Not true says senior North Carolina A&T sprinter Kayla White. White did not start participating in track and field until the 11th grade. On Saturday, she became the first-ever N.C. A&T track and field athlete – indoor or outdoor – to win an NCAA national championship when she won the 200 meters at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Indoor National Championships at the CrossPlex.

White won the 200m in 22.62 to reclaim the fastest time in the world in 2019. White recorded the world’s fastest time in 2019 on Feb. 2 when she ran 22.82 at the University of Arkansas’ Tyson Invitational. Anavia Battle of Ohio State took the crown by running 22.80. That fastest 200m runner in the world once again resides at North Carolina A&T State University, a little school on the east side of Greensboro.

White really wanted to show off the for the athletes who didn’t decide their sport until later in life by doubling as a national champion, but she finished second in the 60-meter hurdle final to Southern Cal’s Chanel Brissett who finished in 7.90 to White’s personal-best 7.92.

“Kayla is a great athlete which we have seen time and time again,” said Duane Ross, the Aggies director of track and field programs. “Our plan this year, her senior year, was to do this.”

Ross said White has been a tremendous team leader for an Aggies team that just completed winning three straight indoor conference titles in both men’s and women’s track and field. Therefore, before her 200m race, he freed her momentarily from her team leadership duties.

“I told her this was about her. It wasn't about me, it wasn't about the team. It was about her being selfish and coming out of this race as a star,” Ross told his multiple first-team All-American.

White’s first and second place finishes gave the Aggies 18 points for the championships tying N.C. A&T for seventh place nationally among such schools as South Carolina and Alabama.

“I came into the 200-meter final with a chip on my shoulder because I felt the hurdles race was mine too. I really ran well in that race,” said White. “Going into the 200 race I just wanted to stay focus because I didn’t want to leave here without at least one national championship.”

That is not a bad weekend for a sprinter who was a dancer until the 11th grade. White said she had dreams of making it big dance until a high school track coach saw her hanging out at Miami’s Southridge High School. While others saw White’s God-given long legs as a pathway to her being a dancer, he saw something else.

“He said why aren’t you running track?” White recalls. “I had never done it before, so I decided to give it a try.”

The “try” did not earn her a lot of college offers. In fact, it wasn’t until she helped her high school’s 4x100 relay team qualify for regionals that she caught the interest of Alabama A&M. But Ross did not give up his pursuit. When the scholarship to Alabama A&M did not work out, White got a call from Ross.

Ross gave her an opportunity many other colleges in America were not offering. Six years later the duo has combined to make White the best indoor 200m sprinter in the world. It can also be said there is no shame in being the second-best 60mh runner in the country. With those two factors in place, the recent convert to track and field has a message.

“Come to A&T,” White said. “Athletes think you have to go to a big school to improve as an athlete. A school like A&T will teach you how to get better if you stay focused on the objective. It is like a family here.”

White still has her senior outdoor season ahead of her. Before that even starts she is already a two-time first-team All-American in the 60mh. She is also a first-team All-American in the indoor 200m and a second-team outdoor All-American in the 4x100 and 100mh.

She has combined to win an amazing 14 MEAC indoor or outdoor titles in her career. Now, she can dance all the way to the podium to claim her national title.

“I wanted this moment so bad coming into my senior year. I wanted to make sure I stayed focused during the offseason,” said White. “I trusted my training and it is paying off. It really means a lot coming in here from an HBCU because you really don't see too many people coming from small schools and being able to compete against the Power Fives.

I wouldn't classify myself as just an HBCU sprinter though. I'm one of the best sprinters in the nation.”