Walk-on Re’ona Pettway returns to track

Junior sprinter Re’ona Pettway walked onto the team this fall after three years away from the sport.

Junior sprinter Re'ona Pettway trains at Temple Sports Complex on Wednesday, Feb 8. BILIN LIN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

A week before women’s track & field tryouts, junior walk-on sprinter Re’ona Pettway hadn’t decided if she would try out for the team.

Pettway was discouraged after she didn’t make the team her sophomore year, but coach Elvis Forde told her to try again.

“I was really upset,” Pettway said. “I didn’t think I would try out again. My coach back home told me that if I wanted to keep running at a competitive level that I would have to try again.”

Pettway thought she left track behind after high school, and she came to college thinking she had to find a new passion. She was a three-sport athlete at Hackensack High School in New Jersey, competing in track, soccer and basketball.

She ran in the 4×100-meter at the Penn Relays as a junior and was on the 4×100 and 4×200 Bergen County championship teams.

Pettway never considered continuing her athletic career in college, but she said she always had her eyes on Temple because she liked being in Philadelphia. She focused on academics as a freshman and finished the year with a 3.7 GPA. Even with the academic success, something didn’t feel right.

“I felt like I had too much time on my hands since I wasn’t practicing,” she said.

Junior sprinter Re’ona Pettway practices at the Temple Sports Complex on Wednesday. BILIN LIN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Pettway’s mindset about track quickly changed after she met Forde while working out by herself. She said he told her to try out for the team.

At that point, Pettway didn’t know how much training it would take to make the team. Once she went through the tryout process, she understood that her training would have to intensify.

She joined the local Moore Elite Track & Field Club to work on her strength. Pettway injured her hamstring during her senior year of high school and needed to regain lower-body strength to compete at a high level.

“I have a lot of respect for somebody who will dedicate themselves to get better and make the team,” Forde said.

Forde took notice of the improvements Pettway made since getting cut and decided to give her a spot as a walk-on in the fall. Pettway said she struggled to keep up with endurance workouts early on, but she gradually improved and started to adjust to the competition level that she’s missed out on since high school.

“Joining the team for a year is just like being a freshman,” Forde said. “You’re learning everything from scratch, and it can take a year to adjust.”

Walk-on life has been an adjustment for Pettway, who said time management has been the most difficult aspect of being a Division I athlete.

“I have a set time where I have to be at practice and I have to go to the weight room,” Pettway said. “Before making the team, I could go to the weight room at night or I could run early in the morning.”

Pettway competed in the team’s season opener at Lehigh University on Dec. 2. She finished the 400-meter in one minute, 7.16 seconds. In mid-January, the Owls competed at the U.S. Navy Mid-Week, where Pettway was a member of the winning 4×400 relay team, which ran a 4:03.2.

She finished 39th in the 400 at the Fastrack National Invitational on Saturday in Staten Island, New York.

Right now, Pettway’s main goal is to gain more confidence by the time outdoor conference competition starts. She wants to be on the 4×400 A-team relay for the American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships, which are from May 12-14 in Houston.

“As long as you’re performing in practice and you’re performing in meets, the way you got on the team does not matter,” Pettway said.

Forde commends Pettway’s effort in practice every day and can see that she’s getting better each week. Forde emphasizes progress when it comes to the junior walk-on, and he said her potential is determined by the improvements she continues to make.

“If I was a guessing guy, I would guess that she will be around next year because of her effort and attitude,” Forde said.

Addison Hunsicker can be reached at addison.hunsicker@temple.edu or on Twitter @AddHunsicker11.

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