Erin Tucker started her high school track and field career as a sprinter. After one season, Jay M. Robinson coach Anthony Blakeney turned her into a hurdler.
On Feb. 20, Tucker made it official that she is both.
A senior, Tucker won gold medals in the 55-meter dash and the 55-meter hurdles at the 1A/2A/3A state meet in Chapel Hill.
Though Tucker possesses obvious speed, Blakeney felt her height (5-foot-4), was better suited to hurdling. She lasted one season as a sprinter before she made the jump.
Last year, when Robinson was in the 4A classification, Tucker finished third in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth in the 300-meter hurdles at the outdoor state championships.
Tucker ran some AAU events in North Carolina and in New York, but overall her results were unimpressive. She took the fall season off and returned to competition for the winter indoor season.
Tucker continued with the aggressive weight training under Robinson physical education instructor Brian Long that she started as a sophomore.
In her first "indoor" meet, before winter break, on the outdoor track at East Rowan, Tucker qualified for the state meet in both the 55 meters and the 55-meter hurdles. She would compete in only one meet indoors before the state championships: the Durham Striders Invitational at UNC Chapel Hill on Jan. 16.
It was the first time she ever ran indoors. Tucker placed seventh in the 55-meter dash behind six runners who either went to 4A schools or private/independent schools.
In the 55-meter hurdles, Tucker finished third behind Danielle Davis of Southeast Raleigh (a 4A school) and Teaunna Cuthbertson of North Rowan (1A), who was quickly becoming one of Tucker's rivals.
"It was definitely an eye opener (regarding) the competition in North Carolina," said Tucker. "It let me know what level I was at and what I needed to do to place and get my times down.
"I needed to work harder," she said. "It was only my second meet. I knew if I had more meets that I would get more comfortable. I needed to get back on schedule."
Prior to the state meet, Blakeney arranged for Tucker to train with her AAU coach, Anthony James of the Charlotte Flights, who helped her with some technical aspects of hurdling.
Tucker says she still had doubts going into the state championships despite being seeded first in the 55 meters and third in the 55-meter hurdles.
Of her two events, the hurdles championship race came first. Tucker and Cuthbertson both won their preliminary heats, but Tucker edged her rival in the finals, winning by 0.04 seconds with a personal best time of 8.28 seconds.
"I looked at my time and I was surprised," said Tucker. "At first it felt like a normal win. Then I stepped on the podium and it hit me that I won a state championship."
Another personal best for Tucker followed in the 55 meters. She posted a 7.19 and raced past second place Zikeena Parker of Rocky Mount, who ran a 7.36.
Tucker has her two medals hanging beside a mirror in her bedroom, and she has her sites set on getting more during the upcoming outdoor season. She thinks her best chance is in the 100-meter hurdles, where she hopes to drop her time from a current personal best of 14.3 seconds to below 14.0.
Last week, Tucker verbally committed to run at East Carolina. Blakeney projects her as a hurdler in college, with the possibility that she will run some relay sprints.
Tucker will be participating in the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in New York City on March 12-14.