Bianca Knight: Making an impact
For most athletes, the chance to compete at the Olympics is a distant dream.
For Bianca Knight, the dream of making the 2008 U.S. track and field team headed to Beijing this August may become reality in the next six months.
The freshman sprinting sensation, who joined UT's women's track and field team this past fall, has the times, training routine and international experience to make a smooth transition to compete with the world's elite runners.
"With the way we are training, by the summer, my times will be better," Knight said. "I will definitely have a chance to tryout for the [2008 Beijing Olympics]."
Knight, one of the top prep sprinters in the nation over the last four years, came to Texas with a lengthy athletic resume. The Ridgeland, Miss. native holds the state record in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, and won 23 Mississippi high school state championships before graduating from Ridgeland High School in June of 2007.
On the national level, Knight set the U.S. junior meet record in winning the 200 in 22.93 seconds at the 2007 U.S. Junior National Championships in Indianapolis. She built her way to the top spot after finishing fourth (22.94 seconds) in 2006 and seventh (23.65) in 2005. Knight added a fourth-place performance (11.26) in 2006 and a sixth-place showing in 2005 (11.92) in the 100. She also anchored the 4x100-meter relay team that set the World junior record of 43.29 seconds in Eugene, Ore., in 2006.
Knight even has experience against the world's best junior athletes. She captured the gold medal in the 100 and brought home the silver medal in the 200 at the 2005 World Youth Championship in Marrakech, Morocco. This past July, Knight won the 200-meter gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Since arriving at the Forty Acres, Knight continued to excel against college competition under head coach Bev Kearney, a 2007 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame inductee.
Knight met the provisional standard of 7.44 in the 60 four times this year and has the ninth-fastest time in the NCAA. A month after turning 19, Knight and teammate Alexandria Anderson reset the Houston Invitational 60-meter meet record with Knight's fastest collegiate time (7.30).
"It lets me know I'm doing what I'm suppose to do," Knight said about her recent success. "My age isn't really a factor. I'm still making an impact on the team even though I am younger [than my teammates]."
Breaking a meet record was simply a stepping-stone to bigger goals for the first-year Longhorn.
"I want to do well during indoors and outdoors," Knight said. "I would like to win a national championship in the 60, 200 or the 4x4. Hopefully, that will lead us to an indoor team title. I really just want to do well and run to my capabilities."
Since coming to Texas, Knight's training routines have changed from the format that brought her success in high school.
"The workouts are more intense," Knight explained. "It requires more effort because I had to start lifting weights which is new to me. At first, the workouts were harder because my body was changing, but the weights have really made a difference."
Knight has also learned from her new teammates and given them something to think about.
"You have to just do what you can to contribute to the team," Knight said. "Don't try to spend too much time worrying about what everybody else is doing because it will take the focus off of you.
"I am a competitor and I like competition," she continued. "I also believe in good sportsmanship. I'm never competing with my teammates. Whether I am first or second, it doesn't really matter as long as I contribute to the team."
Hopefully by the end of the season, Knight will use what she has learned through her short time at UT to reach her Olympic goals.
Knight credited much of her Olympic chances to Kearney, who was one of the main reasons Knight chose to run for Texas. Since both of them have family in and ties to Mississippi, Knight felt there would be a good connection with her new coach.
"Bev is very well known and is one of those coaches that you know could help you get to the next level," Knight said. "She is one of the people that when you need her, she'll be there for you."
As Knight continues to train to be the best, she hopes to put her name on Kearney's list of Olympians and World Champions and make an impact on the Texas track and field team.