As a 2004 graduate of Osceola High School in Kissimmee, we had a saying "Once A Kowboy, Always A Kowboy." That holds true until this day. I'll never forget where I came from and I'll always keep an eye on how fellow alumni are doing in sport and in life.
One of those athletes is Tynia Gaither. Gaither dawned the blue and gold from 2008 to 2012 where she won five individual state titles including three in the 100 and two in the 200 meter dash. After graduating she went onto run for Coach Caryl Smith Gilbert at USC and earn multiple NCAA All-American honors. Her Bahamian nationality gave her the opportunity to run in their national trials, CARIFTA Games, and even the 2016 Olympics where she made it to the semi-finals in the 200m dash.
Friday night she will set foot in London Stadium for the IAAF World Championships 200m final. It's particularly special to Gaither because it is the first world team she has been a part of.
"It's my first year as a professional athlete and to make the final after having a pretty rough past two months, is nothing but a blessing and a testimony for me," she said.
The former Kowboy product now trains in Austin, TX with Coach Darryl "D2" Woodson who also works with athletes Bianca Knight, Natasha Hastings, Michael Tinsley, Mike Rodgers, and more. Coming into the meet Gaither says she was in a mental state that she hasn't been able to grasp for the past couple months, a very positive mindset.
"I went into the heats confident that I was strong enough to grab an automatic qualifying place (top 2)," she explained. "The key for me in that race was to finish strong, and that's what I did. In the semi-finals, I knew I'd have to dig a little deeper. So I really focused on executing proper technique and just focusing on my own lane."
Gaither finished second behind 2016 Olympic silver medalist Daphne Schippers in the first heat with a time of 22.98 and clawed her way into the final by nabbing the last spot, placing fourth by two one-thousandths of a second. She doesn't have any plans of trying anything new in the finals.
"The goal for tomorrow is to do exactly what got me into the finals: zone out the rest of the field, remain relaxed, and execute MY race," she said. "When I do that, I tend to run a pretty decent race."
As a high school athlete did she ever think this day would come and she'd be racing against the fastest sprinters in the world?
"Back at OHS, I knew I'd be where I am right now because I've always been extremely hungry for it," Gaither said. "I have and will always work hard to be where I am and I've always had the right people in my circle to help me and push me to accomplish my dreams and goals."