Like essentially every elite hurdler, Brenna Porter experienced some ups and downs during her collegiate track & field career.
However, there’s no denying the former Sky View standout made the most of her final opportunity to compete in a BYU uniform.
Porter achieved her primary goal, finishing fifth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 57.26 seconds to secure first-team All-America status on the fourth and final day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships last Saturday in Austin, Texas. Earlier this season, the long-time North Logan resident broke the 57-second barrier in the event — on two different occasions — to accomplish her other main objective.
“I remember sitting in the stands (at outdoor nationals) after finishing in 18th place and watching the 400 hurdles finals at Hayward Field wishing so badly that I was running,” Porter said. “I set the goal in that moment that I would be in the final, not watching it from the stands the next year. I guess I’m just a firm believer that if you have a dream, chase it — even if you don’t get it on your first, second or third try. It took me four years to (become a) first-team All-American in the 400 hurdles.
“I’ve thought about it a lot and even if I wouldn’t have made it to the final, I think I would have been all right because I know that I dreamed big and did everything in my power to accomplish it. That leaves no room for regrets.”
Earlier last week, Porter went on a tour of the capital building in Austin and was struck by a comment from former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy once said: “Those who dare to fair miserably can achieve greatly.” Those words helped inspire the daughter of Brett and Jody Porter to two clutch performances at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Porter ran one of her best-ever times in the scorching heat last Thursday when the field was whittled from 24 competitors to eight. Nevertheless, the senior had to wait for the third and final heat to see if her 57.04 would be good enough to secure the last at-large bid. Fortunately for Porter, her heat was by far the fastest one as four of the top five times came from it.
“I didn’t think that I was going to get in (the finals) because I was fourth in my heat and they only take the top two (from each heat), and then the next two fastest times,” Porter said. “So I assumed that I wasn’t going to get in and I was mad, but I also knew that I’d given it my all. But my teammates started cheering really loud when I was under the tent, and then I turned around and realized that I had made it. Oh, it was the best surprise ... that I wasn’t expecting.”
Two days later, the recent graduate put together another consistent performance to secure the No. 5 spot on the podium and score four points for the Lady Cougars. Porter matched teammate Erica Birk-Jarvis, who was fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase, as the highest placer on the team.
Porter credited BYU hurdles coach Kyle Grossarth for her consistency throughout the 2019 campaign. Porter’s times have only varied by a few 10ths of a second over the past few meets, which is a noteworthy accomplishment. Last month, Porter broke a 20-year-old school record in the event with a 56.89. A few weeks later, she ran a 56.98 at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships to qualify for nationals.
Porter’s memorable collegiate career culminated with her fourth first-team All-America honor, but her first in an individual event. The soon-to-be elementary school teacher was a six-time All-American during her time in Provo, and she and Cougar teammate/fellow Sky View alum Conner Mantz raised the bar for what Cache Valley athletes can achieve at a meet of this magnitude.
Mantz, who just completed his sophomore year of outdoor eligibility, garnered first-team All-America accolades in both of his events at nationals. The Smithfield native placed fourth in the 10,000 (29:19.93), and followed that up by finishing seventh in the 5,000 (14:09.20) two days later.
“I feel like a huge part of the reason why I’ve been able to stay motivated and to keep chasing after my dreams is because of the support that I’ve received from people in the community, from my friends and family,” Porter said. “... (This support) means the world to me and I am so proud to be able to represent Cache Valley and Sky View. Yeah, that was a huge factor in being able to reach the goals that I did.”
USC’s Anna Cockrell ended up reigning supreme in the 400 hurdles with a time of 55.23.
Day 4 of the meet was a memorable one for a trio of Mountain West competitors in the steeplechase. Boise State’s Allie Ostrander became the first-ever three-time champion in the event, and she shattered the facility record with her personal record clocking of 9:37.73. New Mexico’s Charlotte Prouse was the silver medalist for the second straight year (9:44.50), while teammate Adva Cohen was fourth (9:46.36).
New Mexico finished eighth in the women’s field with 27 points, while BSU tied for 20th with 13. Porter was instrumental in the Cougars placing 25th with 10 points. Arkansas held off USC to claim team glory with 64 points to the Trojans’ 57.
The biggest women’s star of the meet was LSU freshman Sha’Carri Richardson, who set a pair of world junior records. Richardson ran the fastest 100 ever by a collegian with a blistering time of 10.75, and followed that up with a 22.17 in the 200. Richardson was beaten in the 200 by one-100th of a second.