Crete-Monee's Tayler Whittler has found her niche.
An early attempt this year to move her into hurdles didn't translate to outdoor track, so Crete-Monee coach Willie Cole has gone with what works: Line Whittler up for the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes. Wind her up, and let her go.
"We tried her in the low hurdles, and she ran great indoors," Cole said. "She ran through the hurdles rather than bobbed over them. Then we went outdoors, and something happened."
Up came the head, and up came the running time, as well.
"So that experiment has ended," Cole said.
But Whittler runs on. The senior has become the leader of a solid team, one in the chase for a conference title. For her, it all comes down to running first by running fast.
"I do not like to lose at all," Whittler said. "I'm really trying to break 12 (seconds). We haven't had the best weather, and I'm just getting all the mechanics of it all down."
At Hillcrest, she won the 100 and 200. Two days later, at Joliet West, she added the 400 as well for a triple individual triumph. The only thing keeping her from being a part of the 1,600-meter relay is that the 200 is run immediately before it.
At the Southland Athletic Conference meet, Whittler set a meet record in winning the 100 in 11.94, before winning the 200 in 25.38 and the 400 in another meet record time of 57.69. She also ran the anchor leg on the 400 relay.
Today is the Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional -- and a likely rematch with Lincoln-Way East speedster Aaliyah Brown.
Last year, Whittler made it to the IHSA's state championship in the 100, 200 and 400, but didn't make it to Saturday's finals.
"I personally believe I'm better in the 200, because the 100 is sort of an 'if' game," Whittler said. "I've been doing it well. When I go to college, I'll be a 100-200 runner. I don't know about the 400. They said they'd put me in the 4-by-4 (1,600 relay)."
And college will be DePaul University. That's not the first school thought of when women's track comes up, but for Whittler, the fit is perfect.
"People are like, 'Why are you going to DePaul, that's not a track school,' " Whittler said. "I'm like, 'No, but it's for academic reasons, personally.'
"My priority is academics. I don't let that waver for anything. When they offered me a scholarship, I thought, 'I like the school, I like how it's in Chicago, and I like the networks they have.' It's in the middle of the city, there are so many more people. They're not an established (track) school, but the coaches I'll work with, that's the one thing I really focused on (for athletics)."
Whittler's focus on academics started at home.
"At first I wasn't all that great in school, but when I got to high school, my mom was like, 'If you do good freshman, sophomore year, your last two years will be a breeze for you,' and that's just how it is," Whittler said. "Even with the harder classes, if you get a B in a class, it's not going to hurt your grade-point average. My dad wants me to go into the medical field, but I would love to be a lawyer. I would love to end up going to law school. I know it's really expensive, but I feel I can do it."
DePaul is expensive, but her grades in the classroom and her speed on the track are taking care of that.
"They don't give a full athletic scholarship, but with the academic grants, I'll have more than enough, and that school's almost $45,000 to go there," she said. "So that's a blessing."
And that is biggest hurdle of all to clear.