It was a dream that started four years ago. On Thursday, concluding four years of blood, sweat, dedication – and winning a state championship – the long journey to become a Wichita State Shocker finally became a reality.
When Circle High School’s Talia Highbarger put her pen to her national letter of intent to run track at Wichita State on Thursday afternoon, she couldn’t help but beam, knowing that her objective she set for herself as a freshman had been fulfilled.
“It’s definitely like, getting to actually be there and sign the actual letter and stuff (is awesome),” Highbarger said.
However, now a freshman Shocker hurdler, she said it still hasn’t quite sunk in that she’s going on to pursue a college education.
“Not really,” she said. “I’m still in the high school life kind of.”
Accompanying Talia at her signing was her parents, David and Brenda Highbarger, two of her high school coaches, Doug Odom and Rick Gibson along with a few of her friends from the track team.
Having served as the hurdles coach at Circle High for the last 13 years, Odom said he couldn’t be any more proud of Highbarger.
“(Today) is a combination of four years of work,” Odom said. “It started with her as a freshman. She’s a kid who was dedicated and hardworking to what she’s done. She had a dream as a freshman to run at WSU and sign with WSU.
“You just saw her improve over the four years, she’s a fantastic kid. This is a fantastic accomplishment for her, I’m very proud of her. You hope for great success for great kids, and she is a great kid, WSU is getting a great athlete."
While Odom said that Wichita State is getting a great athlete in Highbarger, the Shockers are also landing a state champion. Highbarger won the 4A girls 100-meter hurdles at the very school she’ll be attending starting in August with a time of 15.66 seconds.
Highbarger certainly hasn’t forgotten the about the gold medal she won two weeks ago, as she had her eyes set on first place from the start of the track season.
“(I’m still on cloud nine) with the state win and stuff,” Highbarger said. “That’s still the main thing I’m focusing on.”
But even though she was the best in the state this season, Highbarger knows the competition gets a lot stiffer once she sets foot on campus.
“It’s kind of scary, knowing that I’m not going to be the best anymore,” Highbarger said. “(I know) that I’m going to have to work way harder than I’ve ever worked before to try and get to where I’m at right now again.”
Don’t expect the fear of competition to slow down Highbarger’s work ethic though.
“Yeah, (there’s a lot of motivation),” she said. “I have a lot of friends there already who are going to help push me and help me and stuff.”
According to Odom, Highbarger shouldn’t have any problem succeeding at the collegiate level, acknowledging that her form is one of her greatest assets.
“She has a very low clearance height, I’m talking (less than an inch), between her and the hurdles” Odom said. “She’s solid inbetween the hurdles, she runs through the hurdles. She’s always wanted to run that perfect race, and I would say at our invational was probably that perfect race.”
Eager to prove herself to her new coach and teammates, the season can’t come fast enough for Highbarger.
“I’m really excited to get back into (hurdling again),” she said. And to get a lot more coaching and stuff.”
While at Wichita State, Highbarger said she plans to major in physical therapy. For now, in the future she hopes to “just go somewhere and do physical therapy, probably in a physical therapy office.”