Sitting on the bleachers on the south side of the Mike A. Myers Stadium, sophomore Teahna Daniels took a deep sigh and raised her finger to point at the opposite end of the track.
“It was right there, actually,” she said.
One year ago, Daniels was coming off a stellar indoor season in which she became the fastest freshman in NCAA history, winning the national championship in the 60 meters. Daniels continued to shine during the outdoor season until the Texas Relays, when she suffered a grade one quadricep strain during the 4x100 meter relay.
“I was giving the baton to Courtney (Okolo), and I just felt a pop right here,” Daniels said as she gestured to her thigh. “And I just went down. I’ve been injured a lot in my life, and I’ve never had a quad injury. So when it happened, I was just like, ‘Man, not another one.’”
Daniels realized it would be a long, taxing road back to the top. Luckily, she knew she wouldn’t have to make the journey alone.
Daniels has seven siblings and two parents who support her through everything. Despite being from Florida, Daniels’ parents come to every meet and have been present through all of her injuries. This setback was no different.
“We just wanted to be there for her and let her know that, considering what happened, it was okay,” Daniels’ mother Linda Latson said. “With the sport that she’s in, you’re prone to injury. So we just wanted to reassure her that she has another three years of college to do what she does.”
When Daniels was eight years old, she raced — and beat — all the boys in her neighborhood in a pair of flip-flops. Latson watched it unfold.
“I was just like, ‘Teahna, go put some tennis shoes on and do that again,’” Latson said. Daniels did as she was told and won again, this time by a wider margin. “I said, ‘Okay, you’re going to have to join a track team.’”
Daniels’ experience in being a part of a family that provides her with ample encouragement has a major impact in her outlook on life off the track.
“I’ve always wanted to uplift the younger generation and try to be a positive influence in my community,” Daniels said. “I’ve been around kids my whole life, so I want to get into something where I can help out.”
During the indoor season, Daniels won the Big 12 Championship in the 60 meters, qualified for nationals and placed 10th in her event. However, she still feels as though she’s holding back.
Now in the outdoor season, Daniels has continued her run of dominance, winning her first race at the Victor Lopez Classic last week.
Daniels will participate in the Texas Relays this week with her parents in attendance. As for how far she has left to go, coach Tonja Buford-Bailey believes it’s up to Daniels.
“When you have a catastrophic injury that happens in an event, it’s hard to go back and do that exact same thing again,” Buford - Bailey said. “But once she gets over that hump she’ll be fine.”