Mya Hines is in her third year competing in track and field and on Tuesday, she already will make her second appearance in the USA Track and Field Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
A 12-year-old student at Northbrook Middle School, Hines competes with the Jackrabbit Running Club and will compete in the pentathlon at the national championships.
The pentathlon tests a wide range of an athlete’s skill set as they must compete in the high jump, long jump, shot put, 80-meter hurdles and 800-meter run. While Hines has proven to be among the elite by qualifying for the event, she is certainly not the most experienced in the pentathlon.
“My coach thought that I could succeed (in the pentathlon) probably two weeks before qualifying,” Hines said. “My first year (of track and field), I did the 800-meter and 1500-meter long distance and in my second year, I did sprinting. This year, I started doing hurdles and long jump. So we thought that since I could do all of those events, I could probably do the pentathlon.”
Hines only started putting together all five aspects of the pentathlon around a month ago. But her background as a distance runner and the natural grasp of hurdling that she developed this season allowed her to catch on to the demanding event very quickly.
“She handled the transition (to the pentathlon) very seamlessly,” Jackrabbit hurdling coach Anthony Knight said. “Mya is very coachable, which is really great for an athlete that competes in multiple events because she works with several different coaches. She really has five separate coaches teaching her five separate disciplines. Her coachability, her dedication, her drive and her personality make it very easy for her to excel in multiple events and with multiple coaches.”
But Hines being on a rapid trajectory is nothing new.
She qualified for the Junior Olympics in her first season in track and field in 2015, as a distance runner, and has always risen to the occasion because of her natural athletic ability.
“She decided to do the pentathlon, literally, one month ago,” Hines’ mother Lauren Healy said. “She’s had three shot put practices and three high jump practices. Now it is the big stage…She is going to smash it.”
Hines is a tall, lean athlete who has the physical upside to develop even more and to learn even more disciplines of track and field. And the foundation of her past, present and future success have all stemmed from what makes her a great distance runner.
“Athleticism, I know coaches throw that term around that you have a great athlete, but that is exactly what Mya is,” Knight said. “She is not super speedy, she will not blind you with her speed. But she is strong and has the skill set to do multiple events, like jumping. She has certain key traits that help her and she is stronger than she looks, particularly in her legs.”
A total of 26 athletes will be competing in the pentathlon in the 11- and 12-year-old girls age group at the national championship meet. The top seven athletes are all grouped rather tightly based on recent scores, leaving the gold medal up for grabs as the event approaches.
And because she has only had about a month with the activity, those around Hines feel that she has the greatest potential to shoot up the scoreboard on Tuesday.
“I think a lot of the other girls have been practicing this event for most of the year, whereas Mya only started doing some of the disciplines (in the pentathlon) in the last month of the season,” Knight said. “For me, that gives her the leg up because a lot of the other athletes might have plateaued. So Mya has the most upside, in my mind.”
This is Hines’ second go-around on this big stage but the nerves will still be present as she goes to compete on Tuesday.
But she plans on using those nerves as fuel to bring home a gold medal and to cement herself as the best in the country in an event that she just started.
“(Seeing the competition level) motivates me to go harder but then I’m looking at these girls like, ‘Whoa,’ but I know that I can hang with them,” Hines said.