Kiersten LaRoche’s track & field roots run deep.
Her family has an athletic history, as her mother and brother are once competed in the sport. It was their influence, LaRoche said, that drew her to the track at an early age.
“My family, they were very heavy in track ever since I can remember,” LaRoche said. “Literally, ever since I can remember, I’ve been around the sport of track & field.”
The Bowie, Maryland native started competing year-round in multiple track & field organizations when she was young, which helped introduce her to a wide range of events offered in youth-level track & field, like hurdles, the long jump and sprinting.
Now one of Temple’s most decorated athletes, LaRoche said she began to wonder how far her early talents could actually take her while competing in her early years.
“When I was [younger], I used to do [Catholic Youth Organization] track, and in the summers I would do competitive track, which is [USA track & field] for the [younger] kids,” LaRoche said. “Maybe at the age of seventh or eighth grade, my mind was there that I wanted to go to college and compete, but I didn’t know too much about it. I knew that I wanted to make a further career [in track & field].”
LaRoche soon entered Bishop McNamara High School and continued competing in multiple events. However, she said she began to sway away from hurdling after her freshman year in order to focus on other areas of the sport.
This decision did not sit well with LaRoche’s high school coach, Keith Chapman, who advised her to shift back into multiple events once again, in order to improve her stock with collegiate recruitment.
Now as Temple’s standout multi-event performer, LaRoche already claimed a win in the women’s pentathlon on Jan. 30 at the Patriot Games in Fairfax, Virginia. The performance was enough to break her own pentathlon school record, which she set in 2013.
The women’s pentathlon consists of five very contrasting events – the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800-meter run – and LaRoche said she practices them in her typical week.
Mondays are for hurdles and lighter jumping, she said. Tuesdays feature longer runs for the 800-meter run, while still working on sprint mechanics for the hurdles. Shot put is handled on her “lighter days.”
The routine, she added, has become clockwork.
“If practice starts at [3 p.m] normally for other [athletes], I’ll come in either an hour or an hour and a half prior just so I can have that shot-put time and that warm-up time to finish at five o’clock,” LaRoche said. “For me, it isn’t that big of a deal just because I want to be good at it, so if I have that block of time to do that from 2 to 5. It’s time I’m willing to give up so I can improve on what I need to improve on.”
First-year coach Elvis Forde said the dedication LaRoche has shown in his inaugural season with the team could lead her to big things.
“Obviously she has a love for [track & field], and that’s an important ingredient if you’re going to be a multi-athlete,” Forde said. “I would like to see her to continue to work hard, but more than anything else, I would like to see her just compete and not overthink the performances that she [has]. I think sometimes she becomes cerebral in terms of over-analysis, and I always say over-analysis sometimes leads to paralysis.”
Forde is not alone in recognizing LaRoche’s commitment to the sport.
Senior Hollis Coleman, one of LaRoche’s teammates and her roommate, also attested to her work ethic both on and off the track.
“She doesn’t come home until 2 in the morning because she’s in the library all night,” Coleman, a sprinter and jumper, said. “And [at] track, she comes an hour early and stays just as long as everybody else, so I guess the results she has been getting so far just show how hard she is working.”
LaRoche said she someday hopes to compete for the Olympic team of Trinidad and Tobago, her family’s native country.
Having competed in the Olympics himself, Forde said LaRoche’s dream is not too far out of reach.
“I’m always going to say you [have] to have your dreams and have the expectations, and sometimes you keep your dreams to yourself and you just go chase them,” Forde said. “If she has [the Olympics] as one of her dreams and expectations, then all the kudos goes to her.”
Tyler DeVice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org