"There is one word that could easily be used to describe both of them: competitive." -- Danny McCray
By Ian Decker - MileSplit Correspondent
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As Haley Tate made the final turn in the 400 meter girls final at the UIL State Track and Field Championships last year in Austin, Texas, there were plenty of people cheering in the stands.
But perhaps no voice was louder than that of her twin sister, Alyssa.
Haley, a University of Georgia signee in the Class of 2022, finished the race in second with a personal record and U.S. No. 6 time of 52.97 seconds.
Alyssa, just a sophomore then, was on the sidelines, but she would later be a teammate of Haley during Katy Seven Lakes' Class 6A state championship wins in the 4x100 and 4x400.
"When she first went for her 53, it was an eye-opener," Alyssa said of her sister's accomplishment. "I knew that she could do it. Just seeing her finally get to where she wanted to get to was a big eye-opener for me, like maybe I can make it there, too."
Despite the natural comparisons they draw for being twins and gifted runners, the Tates are anything but. While Alyssa is one year behind in school, she specializes in the 100m. Haley works the 400m. The pair meet in the middle at the 200m.
So the crux of the story in 2022? The Tates could become one of the nation's best 1-2 punches in the sprints this spring.
The differences don't stop with their preferred events.
"Where Haley is kind of the business one, Alyssa is the one with a little bit of a goofy edge on her side," said David Pollack, the girls track coach at Katy Seven Lakes High School in Texas. "They do balance each other perfectly. They're just so wonderful to be around and to just watch that interaction."
While Alyssa might have a goofy side, one of the things she shares with her sister is her competitive spirit, which makes the pair so formidable on the track. This past March, at the Jack Sands Invite, Alyssa set a personal record in the 200m, recording a U.S. No. 53 all conditions time of 24.35 seconds.
"There is one word that could easily be used to describe both of them: competitive," said Danny McCray, a 2000 Olympian who serves as the Tate's club coach at Greater Houston Track Club and functions in a private capacity during the high school season.
Both Pollack and McCray have a collaborative partnership coaching the twins. While Pollack focuses on the team aspects of the sport, such as the relays and the intangibles, McCray works to help the Tates master their mechanics.
While the twins have developed leadership skills with their high school teammates under Pollack, working with McCray, they say, has also given them some unique advantages, from racing at the AAU Club Championships, to working year-round on the sport.
Both have the long-term goal of competing in college, and maybe even beyond. Haley currently owns a U.S. No. 3 time of 53.89 in the 400m. Alyssa is U.S. No. 23 all conditions in the 100m (11.69w).
Even though they run different events, they say competing alongside one another has helped elevate their natural abilities.
"If we're running a 150m (timed interval) together, we'll try to beat each other," Haley said, "so I guess it could help us run faster because we're trying to see who can get there the fastest. It's been a cool experience to share something -- we share a bond through track.
"We've been running together ever since we were younger, so I feel like I enjoy being competitive with her."
As their club coach, McCray has observed first-hand how competitive Haley and Alyssa can be.
"Alyssa wants to make sure that she runs faster than Haley, and Haley wants to make sure that she's run faster than Alyssa," McCray said. "If we do something similar, there is going to be a competition inside of the workout."
When the Tates first joined McCray's Greater Houston Track Club, which trains elite-level youth and U18 athletes, in September of 2021, McCray was struck by how much the sisters raised the intensity and competitiveness of the club.
"Seeing her push through every workout, whether it's blood, sweat, tears, she would finish the workout." -- Alyssa Tate on her sister, Haley
"When you have athletes like Haley and Alyssa come join the group, it only enhances the group," McCray said. "We don't have to scour the nation looking for competition; we simply need to come to practice."
The motto of McCray's club, he says, is simple: work hard every day so that you have no natural predators. And for the Tates, hard work is an essential aspect of who they are as people and competitors.
"Haley's work ethic is impeccable," Pollack said. "Her competitive drive is some of the best I've ever seen. I've been a head coach now for 19 years and have been in track now for 29 years, and honestly, I don't know if I've seen a better competitor overall than Haley Tate. She just has that drive."
As for Alyssa, Pollack has reveled in the progress she's made in just three years.
"It's just knowing where someone is at the bottom of the mountain and watching Alyssa just decide to ascend, ascend, ascend," Pollack said of what has been the most rewarding part of coaching. "Every aspect of [Alyssa's] running game has improved over the past three years."
But while his time with Haley is ending, he's got one more year with Alyssa. Pollack distinctly remembers when he said to himself, "these kids are something special."
During Katy Seven Lakes' first meet of last year, when Haley and Alyssa were part of a 4x100 relay, Pollack watched as Alyssa turned to her competitor and said, "You ready to lose?"
"The minute I heard that, I said, 'Okay, this is gonna be a special group,'" Pollack said.
As highly-touted names in their athletic community, Haley and Alyssa are no strangers to success.
But that success also stems from the inspiration drawn from the other.
"I would say work ethic," Alyssa responded when asked about what she admires most about Haley. "She dies at practice. When I see her on the track, I'm just like, 'I could never do the stuff that she does.' Seeing her push through every workout, whether it's blood, sweat, tears, she would finish the workout."
For Haley, what's most inspiring about Alyssa is how she uses her relentless motor to keep competing.
"Just being able to see how she was able to run six races in two days was just like, 'Wow,' because I know that was really hard to do," Haley said. "I couldn't even imagine running six races in two days. I know that must have been pretty challenging."
Pollack and McCray believe the sisters can produce results that will make them among the nation's fastest in their distances in 2022.
And so the Tates are ready for their next journey to state this spring.