RICHMOND, Va. – Before she races, Kiara Porter – VCU’s pint-sized sprinter – has to literally look up to her challengers. But afterwards, Porter’s competitors often find themselves looking up at her on the podium.
A rising sophomore molded from five feet of pure fast-twitch muscle fibers, Porter is soon going to find out if that success will translate internationally.
Last week, the Yorktown, Va. native ran a school-record 53.07 in the 400 meters at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind. to take fourth. The finish earned Porter a spot on the USA Junior 4×400-meter relay squad at the IAAF World Junior Championships July 10-15 in Barcelona, Spain.
Porter, who has never traveled abroad, will leave for Spain on July 6. In Barcelona, she’ll be one of a pool of six runners that will comprise USA’s 4×400 relay team. The Americans will have to advance through qualifying to reach the finals. Although her relay squad likely won’t run until July 14, she’ll stay busy soaking in the experience.
Porter would be the first Ram to compete at the World Juniors, an accomplishment she hasn’t overlooked.
“That just means so much to me,” she said. “I would’ve never expected to make it this far in track my freshman year. To run on this level, it’s just an honor to be welcomed on the team.”
VCU Track and Field Coach Jon Riley, who has engineered a dramatic turnaround for the program in recent years, will join Porter in Spain. Although Riley has coached a number of CAA Champions in his short time at VCU, Porter’s recent USA Juniors success has him grinning from ear to ear.
“I think she put every ounce of energy on that track,” Riley said. “For Kiara to be competing with these types of athletes is an amazing feat.”
Long legs often translate to long strides. For runners, this means less work to go farther and faster. Although she’s often the shortest runner when she competes, Porter has proved that size isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe. It’s a stereotype that serves to motivate her.
“I love saying that I can run with girls that are 5-foot-9 and that I can beat them,” Porter says.
She’s been shooting down these myths since she took up track and field in the eighth grade. Porter always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Gail, who was a sprinter at Fort Valley State in Georgia. Porter’s mother avoided pushing the sport on her for fear of burning her out on it. But once Kiara got to running, there was no slowing down.
Porter became a track star at Tabb High School in Yorktown. During her senior year in 2011, Porter won the 200, 400 and ran on the winning 4×400 relay at the Group AA State Championships, setting meet records in all three.
During her debut season at VCU, she set school records in the 400 indoors and outdoors and broke the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Meet record (53.24) in that event. She also placed 15th in the 400, an event she calls her favorite, at the NCAA East Regional.
She’ll look to top off her outstanding rookie campaign in Barcelona. Porter is dreaming of a gold medal, but she’s thrilled about her results so far.
“I just want to be on the relay team,” said Porter. “Just having a chance to run for USA. That means so much to me. If even I don’t make it to be on the finals team, that is fine with me. I just want to go out and show what I can do and represent USA.”