Port St. Joe alum Kayla Parker broke out in a big way in the first indoor meet of the University of Kentucky track and field season
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Port St. Joe alum Kayla Parker broke out in a big way in the first indoor meet of the University of Kentucky track and field season.
Parker won the 60-meter hurdles at the Hoosier Open at the University of Indiana on Friday with a time of 8.43 seconds, a Southeastern Conference best for the indoor season and Parker’s top performance in her three years in Kentucky.
“My time could have been better because I kind of stumbled at the start,” Parker, a junior in the midst of finals week said after a Monday morning practice. “I opened the year with a (personal best) and doing that in December, that is amazing.”
The time of 8.43 is the sixth-fastest ever run at Kentucky. Parker is less than two-tenths of a second off the school’s all-time mark.
Parker also competed in the 300 meters hurdles and finished ninth in a time of 41.75.
“That was the first time I’ve run the 300 meters and coach told me to do it to prepare for the 200” meters, Parker said.
Parker will concentrate on the 200, sprint hurdles and long jump during the indoor season, which lasts through February.
During outdoor season, she will be focused on the sprint hurdles and long jump.
“I’m getting back to what I want to do and what I did in high school,” Parker said.
Thanks to a new coach, or as Parker put it, new management.
For the past two years, coaches had Parker competing in the heptathlon, a multi-specialty event analogous to the men’s decathlon.
The University of Kentucky had fielded standout multi-event athletes in the past and her coaches thought Parker was the proper fit.
Parker never quite found her groove in the heptathlon, she said.
“It wasn’t that much of a leap because I am an athlete and I love to compete, so I enjoyed it,” Parker said. “But it was just a whole lot of focus on a whole lot of things. I was a jack-of-all-trades in a way, instead of mastering one or two things. And it just didn’t work out.”
A conversation last summer with new Kentucky track and field Coach Edrick Floreal put all that aside. Floreal arrived via Stanford University.
He coached hurdlers and multi-event athletes for the United States in the most recent Olympics and is a former Olympic athlete who represented Canada. Floreal also coached his wife, a hurdler, into the Olympics.
“He is very inspirational,” Parker said. “He has competed in the Olympics. He knows what he is talking about. When he tells you to do something, you do it.”
That initial conversation with Floreal involved Parker’s future in the program. Floreal no longer wanted her in the heptathlon.
“He stated that he wanted me to focus on the hurdles and long jump because he thought those were events I would score points in the SEC and” NCAA meet, Parker said.
“I feel I have so much to offer in those events, so it definitely was a breath of fresh air for me.”
When the outdoor season begins Parker will compete mostly in the 100-meter hurdles and the long jump.
She did not compete in the long jump at the Hoosier Open. But hitting that tape for the first time as a collegian? That was sweet, Parker said.
“It is a good start under new management, so to speak,” Parker said.
Parker won 14 individual state titles while leading the Port St. Joe Lady Tiger Sharks to four straight finishes in the top three at state, including two team titles.
She also was featured in Sports Illustrated her senior year.
She is majoring in kinesiology at Kentucky.