College Track: Sprinting From Pullman to the Real World

CROSSING THE FINISH LINE: Adna Alum Regyn Gaffney Reflects on Four Years of Collegiate Track With Fond Memories

By Matt Baide

mbaide@chronline.com

For the past four years, Regyn Gaffney has been competing on the collegiate track 11 to 12 seconds at a time, recently wrapping up her four year career as a sprinter at Washington State University.

At Adna, Gaffney was a 10-time state champion in track & field, winning the 100 meter dash in every year of her prep career.

Those results earned her a scholarship to WSU, and she is happy with how her career went, growing on and off the track.

“I would say one of my best accomplishments is just growing as a person. I feel like being a student-athlete, coming from such a small town, you get a quality that’s like more worldly I feel like,” Gaffney said. “I understand people want more and I’m able to be more open minded when I’m dealing with just anyone now. Not that living in a small town is a bad thing but I definitely think that you’re a little sheltered. When you’re in a small town, it’s almost like you have a cover over you I would say. Once you move into somewhere like Pullman that is still small but there’s a lot more diversity, you just become more worldly because you can meet new people and experience things you wouldn’t necessarily experience by staying in a small town.”

Gaffney is proud of her small town Adna routes and when she was choosing a college to compete at, she wanted to find a place that felt like home.

“I think that people get kind of hung up on the fact that they need to go to a school that is super successful in sports and like way highly rated up on the charts. I think that when you want to pursue a track career in college, you need to just kind of find the school that comes to you in a sense,” Gaffney said. “When I did my visits, I visited a ton of schools and when I finally committed to the one school, it was because it felt like home when I was there. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you find the school that feels like home.”

When Gaffney first arrived in Pullman in 2015, she wasn’t the best track athlete on campus anymore and it took some time to get used to.

“When I was a freshman and you walk in there and you’re just a little young girl. I was just this tiny fish in a tiny pond. I was small over here,” Gaffney said. “I know I was coming into something where there’s gonna be a ton of people with great athletic backgrounds and so I definitely struggled when I was first there just because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right things to succeed like the upperclassmen were.”

Her daily routine included three hours of class in the morning, followed by about an hour break for lunch. Gaffney would then hit the track for practice for two to four hours, followed by some time for her to manage her other responsibilities.

In a sport that is hard to measure improvements, Gaffney said a lot of the improvements come from the mental side of track.

“Improvement in practice is really just, all track is is mental. I feel like whether you’re at practice or you’re at a track meet, where you are mentally is going to determine how well you perform,” Gaffney said. “I think that a good way to measure if you’re improving at practice is just knowing that you’re going into practice with a good mental state and then your physical abilities will follow. Running is all mental, no one really loves running so if you’re in a good mental state, all the physical things will follow. Our training is so intense and if you’re working hard at practice, then it’s going to determine how well you perform.”

Gaffney remembers her first ever collegiate track meet, competing in Seattle with rival Washington.

“I’m pretty sure my first indoor track meet was at UW and I was scared to death,” Gaffney said.

It was her first indoor track meet of her career, an environment that Gaffney isn’t too fond of.

“Outdoor all the way. Indoor track is for certain people and certain people only, like I did not succeed in an indoor track nearly as much as I did on the outdoor track,” Gaffney said. “We didn’t have the opportunity to compete indoors before I ever went to college so the first time that I competed indoors, it was just like a completely new sport in a sense because it’s just different. The events are different, the environment’s different, it’s just different.”

During her freshman year, Gaffney ran the 100 meter dash in 11.87 seconds, finishing 17th in the Pac-12 Championships.

Gaffney noted her most memorable performance during her sophomore season. She ran a career best 11.49 in the 100, earning her the win at the Cougar Invitational meet.

“Sophomore year was kind of my prime time. I feel like that is for a lot of people. Junior year, it’s sometimes hard just because you turn 21, you start to become an actual adult,” Gaffney said. “You might feel like you’re in a pool of different people but my sophomore year definitely sticks out and the meet that probably sticks out the most was our Cougar Invite, which was an outdoor home meet and that’s when I ran the 11.49, which really stood out in my career.”

The 4×100 meter relay team she was a part of ran a career best time at the Pac-12 championships during her sophomore year of 45.91 seconds, finishing in fifth place.

In her junior year, Gaffney finished 12th at the Pac-12 Championships with a time of 11.87 seconds in the 100. The 400 meter relay team took seventh place with a time of 46.97.

She wrapped up her senior season with a 16th place finish in the 100 with a time of 11.99 seconds and the 4×100 relay team finished seventh with a time of 46.30 seconds.

Gaffney remembers her final meet at the Pac-12 Championships on May 12.

“My last meet was in Arizona, we were in Tucson. My mom came and it was hard. I definitely got teary eyed after it. I ran my last 100 and unfortunately, the circumstances weren’t great. There was some weather that was thrown in there, lightning and we ended up running super late at night,” Gaffney said. “I didn’t necessarily finish the way I wanted to, which is unfortunate. I was sad but after the race, I just realized that I accomplished so much throughout the four years. The one race at the end isn’t going to determine how my career went, so I think that it was a bittersweet moment for sure.”

Gaffney noted that her favorite event to compete in was always the 100 meter dash.

“I love the 100 just because I can focus on myself since track is an individual sport. It’s kind of nice to have that one event that’s pretty much like the highlight of track & field to improve upon,” Gaffney said. “The 4×100 was also just, you can’t go wrong with the 4×100. It’s always fun, my team was great. I love the girls, the 4×100 was definitely a fun event.”

During her upperclassmen years, Gaffney noted how she was able to use those lessons she learned when she was a freshman and sophomore.

“I kind of picked up on what I would like to take from them and share with the younger people and the stuff I don’t want to share with them. I kind of picked through the people that I hung out with as bad as that sounds and just like followed in their footsteps in a sense but didn’t take qualities that I wouldn’t want to share,” Gaffney said. “(When) I became a junior and a senior, I definitely felt like I reflected on them what I would want them to know as upcoming student-athletes.”

She said her favorite place to compete during her four years was Drake Stadium in Los Angeles on the campus of UCLA.

“My favorite place to go would be California which is pretty obvious. California is like the hub of track. Every track that you go to there is beautiful, the facilities are great, traveling to California is the easiest travel trip along with the best one,” Gaffney said. “One of the meets that probably sticks out to me is just running at the UCLA track meet. Any UCLA meet is going to be run well and it’s a beautiful campus. I mean, everyone knows that UCLA is just gorgeous.”

Looking back on her collegiate career as a whole, Gaffney noted there isn’t anything she would change about it.

“I don’t think I would change anything. I don’t really regret anything that I did,” Gaffney said. “I feel like the choices that I made were the appropriate choices for myself and I’m really happy with how it went. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Gaffney earned her Bachelor’s degree in social sciences and she plans on continuing her education in pursuit of a career in real estate.

When it came to being a student-athlete, Gaffney spoke about being able to find a balance and managing time.

“Overall, I think that people underestimate how hard it is to be a student-athlete. Whether it’s at the community college level or in the Pac-12. Across the board, you’re going to have some difficulties with balancing your school and your athletic department stuff,” Gaffney said. “I would say that at WSU, I managed it pretty well because there are so many resources that help you. It’s definitely different than just going to school, although I didn’t do that. I think that you do have to overcome some big steps and learn how to manage your time.”

In terms of her track career, Gaffney is officially hanging up her running shoes.

“I think I’m done with track. I don’t want to stop physical activity like as a whole. I think I want to continue that. I’m not opposed to trying some 5K’s or 3K’s,” Gaffney said. “Anything over that, I don’t think I could make it. Sprinters don’t run far but I would like to continue something. I’m not sure exactly what yet. Right now, it’s kind of a little break, but I think in the future I will continue something, especially like the fundraising events and runs. I think I would like to participate in those for sure.”

Gaffney left the door open to potentially coaching in the distant future.

“I’m not sure if I see coaching any time soon, but I’ve always thought that if I had a little girl or a little boy, maybe I would coach them,” Gaffney said. “Obviously, that’s way out there in the future, but as of right now, I think I’m just going to take a step back from track so I don’t not love it anymore. I think it’s good to take a break from something that you’ve done for a really long time just because I don’t want to end up hating the sport because I do actually love it so I think I’ll take a break for now and then maybe in the future, I’ll continue.”

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