NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt track and field team has a plethora of freshmen that are making an immediate impact on the squad this season. This series will take you inside the program to meet some of the Commodore newcomers.
Our first freshman is Kansas City, Missouri native Taiya Shelby. Shelby is making waves in the sprints section of competition. Last weekend at the highly competitive Florida Relays, Shelby ran a personal-best 54.16 in the 400 meters, making her Vanderbilt’s third-best all-time performer in the event.
Q: What has it been like to transition from high school to college?
TS: I think it’s been so far so good. Coming to Vanderbilt, I knew it would be tough but I’m always one to take a challenge. As far as track goes, I feel like I’ve been able to adapt well and feel like I’m finally making a spot for myself here.
Q: Tell us about your journey to Vanderbilt. What was your recruitment like?
TS: My recruiting process went really slow. Vanderbilt was actually the last school I talked to and the last school I visited. I think I visited here in May of last year, but as soon as I came I really liked the school and campus. I loved the coaches and the team, and in the end that was what got me. Also, it’s in the most competitive conference and highly competitive academically.
Q: What is it that you love about this team?
TS: Everyone is very welcoming and a family. I can talk to anybody about anything. I like that it’s a smaller team, it’s easier for us to be close. I feel like some teams are too big, but I like the unity aspect here.
Q: How long have you been running track?
TS: Since freshman year of high school. I actually played basketball in high school, as well. It was my No. 1 sport then, but that took a turn my junior year of high school and I kind of realized I wanted to focus on track and and try to compete in college. In fifth grade, we did a little track meet in school and I was like, “Well, I’ll do track in high school.” They didn’t offer it until high school. Ever since then, I have loved it.
Q: What do you love so much about the sport?
TS: I feel like it’s an individual sport, but at the same time it’s one of the more challenging ones because it is more individual-focused. You have to have a lot of self awareness.
Q: You’ve ran a few different events since you’ve been here. What’s your favorite?
TS: I would say the 400 meters.
Q: How are you balancing academics and track?
TS: As a student-athlete, if you have been doing it for awhile, you’ve always had to balance athletics and academics. I’ve always had to make sure that I had my stuff done in time so I can go to practice or make sure I get enough sleep so I can make an 8 a.m. test. If you stay on top of it and use your resources, there are a lot of those here and I make sure I take advantage of them, it’s doable.
Q: What are you studying at Vanderbilt?
TS: I am looking towards economics and business with a Spanish minor.
Q: What’s your next goal in track?
TS: Hopefully to stay consistent with my times. Right now, my goal is to get my time down so I can go to first round NCAA regionals. I hope I can do it.
Q: Do you have any superstitions when you compete?
TS: I don’t. I should. In high school I did, I wore the same sports bra every time I competed. But, I do like to have a turkey sandwich with a pickle before I compete.
Q: Your Vanderbilt career is still young, but has being a college athlete been what you expected thus far?
TS: I think it has been. No, it’s been better. I always try to hold myself to a high standard but I never thought I’d be where I am already. Anything can happen now. I’m always going to keep looking forward and improving though.
Q: Do you have any siblings?
TS: I have a little brother that’s eight. He wants to run track too so I’m hoping we can get him doing that. He kind of looks up to me.
Q: What is one thing most Vanderbilt fans wouldn’t know about you?
TS: I’m from Kansas City and I love my city. I’m a big Chiefs fan also, I love football.
Q: When you get time away from school and workouts, what do you do for fun?
TS: I make dance videos. I used to dance. Sometimes I just listen to music and start dancing in my room. It’s not that good, just me having fun.