(Photo by Tyler Copeland)
Aria Tate still has a few more goals before she finishes her high school track and field season.
She just won't do it in a Tampa Wharton (Fl.) High uniform.
The senior graduated on Monday and ran her final race on May 6 at the Florida High School Athletic Association Track and Field Championships, where she finished second in the Class 4A 100m hurdles in 14.66 seconds.
But Tate still hasn't decided on a college. And she still wants to qualify for a national meet.
She'll get that chance Saturday at Flo Golden South, where she'll vie for an automatic qualifier in the 100m hurdles at Brooks PR June 17.
It will be her third straight trip to the Florida meet.
Another plus: She'll announce her college decision, too.
"I look at Flo Golden South as it's a very important meet," said Tate, who said she is projecting to be a heptathlete at the college level. "To me it's more important than states. I can get that golden ticket."
Tate has narrowed down her college suitors to Central Florida, Colorado State, South Carolina, Nebraska and Western Kentucky.
The opportunity to run at a national meet following Flo Golden South isn't lost on her, either.
"It will push me even more to do better," said Tate, who also has been invited to run at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. "I can get that exposure."
Which is appropriate, because Tate's path toward college hasn't always been a straight one.
An injury during her junior outdoor season was an inopportune moment, especially considering Tate was coming off a sixth-place finish at state as a sophomore and had run a season best time of 14.39 seconds in the 100m hurdles.
The chance to run sub-14 had to wait.
"I know people were sleeping on me this year because I was hurt," Tate said. "They didn't think I was going to do anything."
Tate was able to run at Flo Golden South in 2016, where produced a 100m hurdle time of 14.76 seconds and finished fifth, but it was a subdued accomplishment.
"I knew I could do better," she said.
College recruiters stepped off the gas pedal during that time. So when the November early period came, Tate waited. She had to endure that silence again during the initial regular period, too.
But Tate started to heat up at the FSU Relays, logging a time of 14.56 seconds and finishing second. During the year, she also logged performances in the 200m, 400m, 800m and the HJ.
Her breakout race came at District 4A-6. Tate went a Florida No. 5 time of 14.13 seconds in the 100m hurdles and won her second district championship. She followed with another win at the Region 4A-2 Championships in 14.46 seconds, earning her first region title.
Colleges began calling.
When Tate stepped to the line at state, she had every intention on winning. But the weather played a role in her race, she said, and she finished in second.
Still, she was happy.
"I wanted to win, but it wasn't my best race," she said. "I didn't feel like I was technically sound."
But Tate knows she still has at least one more opportunity to run her best race.
That moment will come at Flo Golden South.