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Ohio State women’s track and field competes the Wright way

Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer

Ohio State sprinter and hurdler Letecia Wright led the OSU women’s track and field team to its first-ever outdoor championship title last weekend.

“We wanted to show everyone that Ohio State women’s track team was not going to just be an over-the-night, one-time winning team,” Wright said. “We wanted to show people exactly how my coach and the team have changed the culture.”

Less than three months ago, on Feb. 27, Wright helped the team clinch its first indoor Big Ten championship.

When Wright arrived at OSU, the team finished 10th in the conference in the indoor season and fifth in the conference in the outdoor season. On top of helping to overcome the team’s struggles, Wright needed to grow personally.

“I definitely had to grow mentally strong,” Wright said. “I knew sports were vigorous, but not to the level of college. … There are 20 of you who can do one race great — now who’s stronger mentally?”

With a strenuous workout regimen and a strict diet, Wright faced a daunting lifestyle as an athlete at OSU. As she always had done when times were hard, Wright turned to her mother and sister.

“They’ve always supported me in anything I do,” Wright said. “The days I’m a little upset about how I ran or how I’ve practiced landing, they’ve been there to listen to me and just tell me, you know, it gets better, just keep focus and know why you’re there.”

Besides her family, Wright relied on support from her high school coach and many other people from her hometown of Baltimore, who helped guide her to her current level of success.

“When I got into college, they all still root me on,” she said. “Every week, they tell me they’re proud of me. … They’ve been there.”

Wright has taken the entire experience in stride. In her time at OSU, Wright has won two individual Big Ten titles as a member of the 4×100 meter relay team, set the 100 meter hurdles record at the Drake Relays and was selected All-Big Ten six times.

But Wright is humble; she’d rather deflect the spotlight onto her teammates.

“I’ve been successful as an individual because of the team,” Wright said. “We are surrounded by a lot of girls who want to do good and are motivated.”

Wright’s love for her teammates doesn’t go unnoticed by those around her.

“Tish is very humble,” said Christina Manning, a junior teammate. “Our coach spoke on that right before the day of finals and she pointed out how it seems as though Tish doesn’t know how good she is. … She doesn’t care so much about winning, but more about the team.”

Wright even gives a lot of credit to all of her competitors. The better the competitors do, Wright said, the better she performs. Her positive attitude, especially with her opponents, sometimes can get her into trouble.

“Sometimes my coach says I’m a little too nice in the field,” she said.

Coach Karen Dennis said she knows how rare of an athlete Wright is, both as a competitor and as a person. Although Dennis appreciates Wright’s humility, she said, she wouldn’t mind seeing Wright take charge.

“Sometimes I wish Letecia were a little more selfish,” Dennis said.

It’s Wright’s optimism in the toughest of situations that makes her who she is. She knows the grueling workouts and the tireless effort she has put forth have helped her rise to the top of the Big Ten.

But it’s not the Big Ten titles or the All-Big Ten selections that she wants to define her career at OSU. Instead, it’s the growth she’s shared with her team.

“My last four years here have been really great,” Wright said. “I’ve learned a lot of things. It’s just excellent to watch the whole team change and become a stronger team.”

Dennis said she likes to think of Letecia as a role player on a basketball team. She’s the special kind of athlete who not only puts up big numbers but also inspires those around her to compete at a higher level.

“Great players make people around them better,” Dennis said. “She is a great athlete and she has made everybody around her better.”

 

Correction: May 18, 2011
 
An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Letecia Wright. 

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