PA Profile: Alitta Boyd, Triple & Long Jumper
By Bob Burns
Alitta Boyd at the 50th Anniversary Golden West Invitational (photo by Greg Ashman)
Alitta Boyd placed second in the long jump and triple jump at last month’s CIF State Track and Field Championships. Despite falling short in her final shot at winning a state title, the senior at Hayward’s Moreau Catholic High School took the disappointment in stride.
“She’s so easy-going,” said Alitta’s mother, Diane Blackwell. “She doesn’t get upset. She just says, ‘OK, I’ve got to work a little harder.’”
Diane, a retired Oakland police officer, is more the intense type. But her youngest daughter’s equanimity can be a virtue. The week following the CIF meet, Alitta competed against some of the top prep jumpers in the U.S. at the 50th Anniversary adidas Golden West Invitational (Folsom, Calif.). Here she long jumped to a winning 19-04.75 and won the triple jump with a 40-00.75.
Two weeks after the Golden West, Boyd leaped to a pair of first-place finishes at the USA Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore. Her winning marks of 20-71⁄4 and 43-8 were wind-aided, but her series included legal marks of 20-61⁄2 and 42-113⁄4. Those are the longest jumps by a high school athlete this season.
“The state meet is definitely a big meet, but it wasn’t time to peak yet,” Boyd said. “I was OK with it. State is big, but not as big as junior nationals.”
Triple jump sequence by Alitta Boyd at the 50th Anniversary Golden West Invitational
Boyd’s victories in Eugene earned her a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the Pan American Junior Championships. The Pan Am Juniors will be held July 31-Aug. 2 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
“I’ve never been out of the country before,” Boyd said. “I’m excited that I finally get a national uniform.”
Boyd won the triple jump at the 2008 USA Junior Championships with a wind-aided 43-1. In most cases, a victory at the national meet earns a spot in the IAAF World Junior Championships. But since Boyd hadn’t met the world qualifying standard of 42-7 with a wind-legal jump, she didn’t get to make the trip to Bydgoszcz, Poland.
That was one disappointment that stayed with her awhile. A three-sport standout in volleyball, basketball and track through her junior year, Boyd dropped volleyball last fall to devote more time to track. Still, she sometimes wonders whether she spread herself too thin in high school.
“I do kind of wish I had focused more on track,” said Boyd, who also played saxophone in the school band.
She’ll be a one-sport athlete next year at USC, which she will attend on a track scholarship. She visited LSU and Texas A&M but decided to stay on the West Coast.
“I’m a California girl,” Boyd said. “I like the warm weather. Plus, USC is a young team, and that appealed to me.”
Her mother, a standout basketball player at Fremont High School who played collegiately at Howard University, has been closely involved in her daughter’s athletic career, but she let Alitta make up her own mind about what college to attend.
Long jump sequence by Alitta Boyd at the 50th Anniversary Golden West Invitational
“I went to college on the East Coast and I hated it,” Blackwell said. “I told her to go where she thought she would fit in the best. I think she made the right choice with USC.”
When Alitta reached high school, Blackwell didn’t feel comfortable coaching her anymore. She did her research and hooked her daughter up with Sylvester Johnson, a highly regarded jumps coach at Chabot College.
The triple jump is Boyd’s favorite event, though she improved more than a foot in the long jump this season.
“Lately, the long jump seems the easier of the two,” Boyd said. “I definitely love the triple jump more. It’s not something everyone can do. It’s very technical. That’s why I like it.”
The 5-foot-11, 140-pounder also qualified for the state meet in the 200 meters. She figures she’s done as a competitive sprinter, but her size and speed bode well for her future as a jumper, according to USC assistant coach Michael Pullins.
“She has much more in those legs of hers,” Pullins said. “She has the key ingredients to becoming a successful jumper speed, power and body awareness. Those skills are critical in the development of any technical event.”
While her long-term goal is to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games, Boyd doesn’t plan to bide her time at USC.
“I want to see if I can win an NCAA title as a freshman,” Boyd said. “I have a long way to go, but I can do it. I’ll be concentrating just on track for the first time.”
As a single mother with four children, Blackwell made sure each of her kids stayed busy. Her two sons participated in football, basketball and track, and her oldest daughter played football at Logan High School. But Alitta kept particularly busy, competing in swimming, gymnastics, basketball and track from an early age.
“She was a fish in the pool, but we eventually had to drop swimming and gymnastics,” Blackwell said. “She was so tired at night.”
With her children out of the house, Blackwell plans to continue coaching at Moreau Catholic. She’s eager to see how Alitta fares on her own.
“She doesn’t understand how good she is,” Blackwell said. “I think she’s going to find out.”