After consistently finishing third in the long jump event at the AHSAA state track meet over the past few years, Muscle Shoals athlete Kaylie Wright dedicated her practice sessions to reaching the 18-foot mark.
For the first time and at the key moment of her career, Wright hit the milestone and won an individual state title at the Class 6A state meet.
"Whenever I finally landed that first place jump, I just fell to my knees and wanted to cry but I couldn't because I was so overwhelmed," Wright said. "I just looked up at the crowd and shouted 'that's God, y'all.'"
In addition to her first-place finish in the long jump, Wright was fifth in the high jump and seventh in the 200 dash.
For her accomplishments, Wright is the TimesDaily girls track athlete of the year.
She and the other TimesDaily players of the year will be honored at the annual Athlete of the Year banquet June 11 at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum where overall male and female athletes of the year and top athletic program will be named.
Head coach Catrina Smith said Wright has grown as an athlete in such a short period of time.
"I really have never had an athlete like her," Smith said. "She just always has such a great work ethic where she goes out there and works hard each time she is there."
Wright said she when she was younger people would always tell her she needed to run track because of her high energy level, but it was not until the summer before her eighth grade year that Wright fell in love with the sport.
That summer she was a member of the North Alabama Trackers and competed at the state and national level under USA Track.
She said her proudest accomplishment during that time was finishing second in the nation in 200 hurdles against girls her age.
Wright said she had always enjoyed running but was not exposed to the different areas of track and field until that summer.
Wright said it was a different environment participating in school track after competing in the summer, but she said she has grown more as an athlete while competing on the high school level.
She said one of her favorite parts about track is getting to mentor to girls younger than her and watch them improve.
"It really is really rewarding to see them grow up, and I watch them teach other kids the next year around so that's something really special to me," Wright said.
She said track is unique as a sport because it is an individual sport with a high value on team.
"It's kind of funny to me sometimes because I will be out there pumping them up and telling them how to run faster or jump higher knowing good and well that they could go out there and beat me the next race," Wright said. "It's like you help your competition."
Wright said since she still has one year left with high school track, her goal is to break the state record and encourage people to not give up on what they want to do.