Girls' Indoor Athlete of the Year: Erika Pena
Erika Pena hopes to be a heptathlete one day.
Until then, she’s doing her best impression in the interscholastic ranks.
A rising senior at Toll Gate, Pena put on a show at the indoor track state meet this season, capturing fourth place in the 55 hurdles, fifth place in the long jump, running anchor on the Titans’ sixth-place 4x400 team and also running on the 11th-place 4x200 team.
“She works hard,” said Toll Gate coach Jon Deming. “It is kind of tough, because she does so many different events. It’s hard to find the time to focus on just one thing. If she just focused on the hurdles that would be one thing, but she’s one of our main runners on our relays. She does track workouts, then long jump and we use her for high jump sometimes.”
That’s Pena’s M.O., though, as she’s been a contributor all over the track and field since breaking onto the scene as a freshman. Also the school’s best cross country runner, Pena has stood out as one of the most versatile performers in the state.
“My training is to be a heptathlete (a heptathlon features seven different events, ranging from throwing to jumping to running distance to hurdling) in college,” Pena said. “So my coaches have always said, ‘Let’s get you to do all these events, and focus on the hurdles and the other ones can just be the cake.’”
Pena took a little time to reach peak form in the indoor season after coming from cross country. But when the big events came around, she delivered.
At states, she was hoping for a third-place finish in the hurdles but had a small hiccup during the finals and ended up in fourth. That was disappointing – although still a strong showing – yet she redeemed herself in the long jump. Just hoping to medal, she set a personal record with a leap of 17-feet, five-inches and grabbed fifth.
Also a standout on the outdoor scene, where she took third place in the 100 hurdles at states, Pena will be back for one more year all over the track, where she’ll be trying again to put herself in position for more success.
“It’s good that she’s got a lot to work on, but the ceiling is so high,” Deming said. “There’s really no limit.”