COLUMBIA — Mikayla Logan could almost trick you into believing she’s just your average 11-year-old. On a typical day, she’ll wake up and head to Shepard Elementary School, then maybe babysit after school before heading to practice for one of the three sports she plays.
But with her tall, slender frame, Logan is built to run. Fast.
Last spring, after winning the 200-meter dash at the local Hershey’s Track and Field Meet and the state meet, Logan headed to the North American Final in Hershey, Pa. Logan finished fourth in the event at the nationals meet, a happy ending to her first year on a track team.
“It was a lot different than what I expected,” said Logan, who joined Columbia’s Blue Thunder Track Club when her parents urged her to pick up a sport in addition to basketball. “I was expecting a lot of kids who were confident and wanted to win. But they tried to make it more fun, instead of just focusing on the competition.”
Logan was initially nervous about joining the team, but when she runs at this year’s local Hershey Meet, to be held Saturday at Rock Bridge High School, she’ll have a good shot at returning to nationals.
“At first, I didn’t really want to do it,” Logan said. “Coming in, I thought a lot of kids would be faster. But everyone else used it as a fun thing, and I loosened up as I got around them.”
Her mother, Nawassa Logan, was just as surprised at her daughter’s immediate success.
“Who’d have known,” she said. “When she did the Hershey meet, we really only understood about the local meet. We heard that day there was a state meet, and we realized even further at state. In all our wildest dreams, we didn’t think in her first year she’d be doing all that.”
Logan and her mother maintain a color-coded calendar to keep track of her various activities. But since that meet a year ago, Logan has devoted more time to track, which she said keeps her out of trouble.
“She balances everything better when busy,” said Nawassa Logan, who proudly pointed out that her daughter has never missed a homework assignment or failed to study for a test. “Idle time gives her time to forget everything she has to do.”
Nawassa Logan said the change in her daughter over the last year has been obvious.
“You can tell she’s interested in workouts,” she said. “She’ll run on her own, and she took her winter workouts seriously. She wanted to be better. You can see the maturity level picking up – and she was already mature for her age – since she’s had to make that balance.
“She’s got plans. She’s interested in three sports, and academics, so she figures she’s got four ways to get into college ... Even athletically, if she decides she doesn’t want to do any of this, the experiences she’s had so far are going to be enough to last a lifetime.”
Coach Camren Cross has also noticed a transformation in Logan, who he said was always a hard worker.
“She’s become an even harder worker because she knows there’s a little more spotlight,” he said. “This is her first year in the competitive AAU league, and she knows every time she steps on the track someone can beat her. That wasn’t the case with the Hershey Meet.”
Cross said Logan will have to make a decision this year, because some of the top AAU meets, which Cross expects Logan to make, will run concurrently with the Hershey meets. But regardless of which route she chooses, Cross expects “all those times to drop and get better, and all those jumps to be longer.”
Shortly before practice Tuesday at Hickman High School, Logan stood in a circle of teammates, her shoulder-length hair pushed back in a headband and her green shorts striking under the overcast sky. They laughed and pushed each other, teasing. Logan was in the center of at all, both figuratively and, given her height, literally.
Cross called over to her, chiding, “Once the expectations come, look what happens.”
Logan laughed and ran off to join the team’s stretching circle, her long legs flashing all the way.