"Through sophomore and junior year, I've run like Talitha. I've run like my own athlete." -- Talitha Diggs
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By Cory Mull - MileSplit
It took a little bit of time for Talitha Diggs to gain perspective on the idea of competing in the aftermath of her family's rich track and field success.
Maybe finding her road never had to be about following in another's footsteps.
"I feel like everyone has to find their own purpose, in track or life, wherever it is, you have to find what makes you tick and what you're best at," Diggs said. "No one else can decide your fate for you.
"That's really why I tried to focus on my own races, my own practice. Although my mom, again, she was unbelievable and she's given me genetic talent, the person who's been working hard and sacrificing so much to be where I am today is myself."
Today, Diggs is ready to challenge herself in the best way possible: By going after the 200 and 400 meter Class AAA titles on Friday and Saturday at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships.
Onlookers may be hard-pressed to bet against the District 11 talent, whose career PRs of 23.90 and 54.21 seconds stack up nicely to her competition, among them Bria Barnes of Cheltenham.
"This year I just want to work on executing my race," Diggs said. "I know fast times and everything else will come into play as I execute."
But no doubt, the memory of losing those titles last year has motivated her.
After making championship finals of both races as a freshman -- the only first-year athlete to do so in the Class AAA races -- Diggs narrowly missed out on claiming titles as a sophomore, despite the fact that she ran personal record times in both races.
And those two misses are high on her priority list.
"Just to get over that hump, that freshman and sophomore year I wasn't able to," she said.
While Diggs keeps her goals closely guarded -- along with being superstitious, she says goals can "limit you to a certain extent" -- it's not hard to figure out what she's thinking.
A total of 21 athletes have broken 54 seconds in the 400m in 2019, and the country's top 53 have gone under 24 seconds in the 200m. Wissahickon graduate Krista Simkins owns the 400m state record of 53.23 seconds from 2005.
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Diggs is capable of dropping those benchmarks this weekend.
"As long as I execute my race plan and I do my best race, the times will come and the times will come," she said.
But it's also important to understand just how strong she's become, both physically and mentally, and how distancing herself from the expectations of others has helped her grow.
While most young athletes can ride the wave of momentum up state and national charts in near anonymity before they hit it big, Diggs has always had a certain spotlight on her.
While her mother never put pressure on her to run, Talitha decided to compete in the sport from a young age anyway. And she felt no greater pressure to succeed than in her freshman season at Saucon Valley.
"I was trying to live up to that standard and race with that in the back of my mind," she said.
What's helped, though, is that Diggs has found her own path. She's shied away from the event where her mother and aunts succeeded.
Joetta ran a personal best 1:57.84 in the 800m, while Hazel Clark went 1:57.99 and Miles-Clark went 1:56.40. So far, Talitha has run one competitive 800m in her life.
Instead, she's training exclusively in the sprints, managing a versatile resume in 2019 that's included Pennsylvania's second fastest 100m (11.72), its second fastest 200m (24.39), its third fastest 400m (55.47) and its 11th fastest 300mH (44.61).
She's also leading the state in the long jump (19-3).
"I feel like I have a little more speed," Diggs said. "And that's kind of why I tried to find my own lane."
That's not to say everything has come easy. Most weeks, Diggs trains on her own.
She has a couple close coaches, including a Godfather and another whom the family trusts. They both write workouts for Diggs.
Meanwhile, Joetta, whom Talitha calls 'The Implementor,' coaches her up, tells her the splits and reps, and supports her daughter in hitting the prescribed goals.
"It takes a lot of mental toughness," Diggs said of training.
In the end, Diggs' success will derive from her own work ethic.
But she likes it that way.
She loves the feeling she gets when she makes the final turn in the 400m, sees the homestretch, and opens it up, whether it's practice or competition.
"I like the 400 so much because it's a mix of speed and strength. It's a technical race," she said. "You have to have a good strategy and you have to execute."
Diggs knows her future is bright, and she'll get more opportunities to race beyond the state championships. She's headed to a meet in Cuba sponsored by a national organization in June, and then from there she'll likely race at New Balance Nationals Outdoor.
But she isn't getting ahead of herself. First, there's an important meet this weekend.
"For right now, I'm trying to focus on my states and we'll get beyond that later," she said.
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Contact Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can tweet at him @bycorymull
Talitha Diggs' Favorite And Least Favorite Workouts
Favorite: 150m repeats
"That's my go-to. I like running the turn. I like pushing off the turn and running down the homestretch."
Least Favorite: 600m repeats
"I don't like mileage. I don't like the long distance thing."