More than anything – more than the palm trees, more than the proximity of family, more than the bright lights of Hollywood – Katie Reid chose UCLA over other schools for one reason, and one reason only.
Because she wants to run in the Olympics.
And UCLA has the coach who has promised to get her there.
The university’s women’s track program is led by Jeanette Bolden, who coached the United States women’s team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and knows a little something about how to get to the world’s grandest athletic stage.
“I really wanted to stay on the west coast – I’m excited about the weather, obviously – but the main thing is the coach,” Reid said in Earl Marriott Secondary’s gym Wednesday afternoon, just moments after signing her letter of intent on what was the NCAA’s National Signing Day – the first day schools can officially ink athletes to scholarship agreements.
“It’s my goal to make it to the Olympics, and I know that she can really help me. She’s been there, she knows what it takes.”
Reid will run the 400 metres at UCLA – and maybe the 200-m, too, because she “likes the sprint side of things,” – but it’s the 400-m race in which she excels.
In fact, it’s a distance she’s owned for the better part of a year; in her age group, there’s nobody better in Canada.
Last year, Reid won gold in the 400 – and set a new meet record – at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships, and also won gold at the prestigious Oregon Relays despite racing against a field stacked exclusively with NCAA runners.
Reid, who trains with the Richmond Kajaks under coach Mike Murray, also won gold for EMS in the 400 at the B.C. High School Championships and, last summer, was fifth at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
“You don’t see athletes like Katie very often. We’re very lucky to have her here at our school,” said Earl Marriott track and field coach Bruce Robinson.
Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Reid said the lure of competing at a big, high-profile school like UCLA helped push her to become a Bruin.
“I definitely wanted to go to a big school in the Pac-10, and because UCLA has great academics and athletics, it made my decision even easier,” she said. “It’s just a good fit. It’s where I want to be.
“I’m really excited to be going there next year, and excited to start the next chapter in my life.”
Though she’s still got a few months left of high school – and possibly, a 400-m record to break at provincials – Reid said it’s hard not to think about her NCAA future, and her dream of representing Canada at the Olympic Games.
“I wouldn’t want to say I couldn’t make it in 2012, but 2016 is my main goal… but 2012 isn’t out of the question.”
Perhaps no one aside from Reid and her parents Rob and Linda – who were also present for Wednesday’s signing – was more thrilled for the speedster than EMS athletic director Daniel To, who gushed not just about Reid as an athlete, but as a student and person.
“She’s a great student, and probably the world’s nicest person, too,” To said.
“But she’s just got that ability to turn the switch and be super competitive. There’s not a lot of people like that.”
Robinson, perhaps, put it best, while gazing up at the record board pasted on Earl Marriott’s gym wall, while Reid posed for photos just a few feet away.
“I think her name’s going to be up on that record board for a long, long time,” he predicted. “She’s pretty fast.”