Bickham is new track star

By Rhema Rhea

Freshman thrower Tyra Bickham wanted to pursue a college basketball career, but her decision to switch to track has paid off since an appearance at the MAC Indoor Championships.

During her time at Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, Mo., Bickham was a four-year varsity basketball player and made it to the state tournament all four seasons. The highlight of her basketball career was when she led the Blue Springs Wildcats to the state championship. They lost, but Bickham was named to the All-Conference team.

“It was a nice feeling, definitely, since it was my last year there. As a team we were excited about it,” Bickham said.

Since joining the NIU program this season, Bickham has emerged as one of the top throwers.

In her most recent meet, the freshman got her first event title in the shot put with a toss of 44-04.25. She also achieved a second-place finish in the discus with a throw of 149-02.

“Tyra is an exceptional student-athlete both academically and athletically,” said head coach Connie Teaberry. “For her to just walk into that meet with confidence and get her first college win was phenomenal for her, and then to have decent throws in both the shot and discus just lets her know that if she continues to work hard, these next three and a half years will be phenomenal for her in the conference.”

Life before college track consisted of basketball, and it is a sport the Huskie freshman has played since she was in third grade. But she decided her senior year of high school that track provided a better route.

“For the longest [time], I was deciding I wanted to go to college for basketball; I wanted to get a scholarship for basketball,” Bickham said. “I didn’t decide to try and pursue track in college until my senior year during basketball season once we got into the state tournament.”

The decision was not easy for the 5-foot- 5 former small forward, but after a talk with her parents Bickham felt turning to track, where she went to state three out of four years in high school  — including senior year where she got second in discus and fourth in shot put at the state meet — would be a good choice.

“I felt like I’d do better in track, and once I told my parents I decided to do track they said I’m going to have to really focus on track because it was so last minute trying to go for a scholarship,” Bickham said.

Bickham’s move to track came with the option of throwing the shot put and discus, giving the Blue Springs, Mo., native one more decision to make: which she likes better.

“It’s weird; it varies every year,” Bickham said. “In high school my freshman year, I liked shot put more, and then my sophomore year it was discus and so on. So it kind of alternates each year.”

Bickham competed in all seven meets during the indoor season and secured a spot in the shot put for the Indoor MAC Championships during the Feb. 15 Fred Wilt Boilermaker Invitational with her fifth-place toss of 44-04.00.

When the Indoor MAC Championships came around, the thrower did not have as much luck during the event as she tossed 40-06.75 to finish in 20th.

“I think it went pretty well,” Bickham said. “I probably would have been happier if I would have placed higher than I did at conference. It was really exciting, and I was happy that I made it to conference and qualified and was able to get the experience.”