Cove senior Sophie Pettit has been making waves in track and field since breaking a meet record at her very first contest in middle school. She gained notice on the prep scene when, in one of her first meets as a freshman for Monument High School, she ran the 100-meter dash in 12.50 seconds and eventually won a state title in the even for the Tigers that spring.
She has since added several more individual titles, meet and school records — including leading the Leopards to a state championship after moving to Cove.
Pettit still has one more season to further cement her growing legacy in Oregon small school lore, but she is already looking ahead to the future. Last week, the senior signed her letter of intent to continue her track and field career at NCAA Division I Weber State in Ogden, Utah, making her one of only a handful of Cove athletes to ever go D-I.
“I’m just humbled to have the (chance) to go Division I,” Pettit said in an interview with The Observer last week. “It’s incredible to have such an opportunity at such a young age. I’m humbled and honored.”
Pettit signed her letter of intent at an assembly at the start of the school day Nov. 14 in front of her peers. She explained how just a year ago, even in spite of what she has accomplished during the early stages of her prep career, she didn’t think “competing at such an elite level was within my reach.”
“I never could have, in my wildest dreams, imagined standing here today signing my National Letter of Intent to a Division I university as a ‘top tier’ recruit,” she said at the signing ceremony. “The fact that I am doing this today is surreal to me, and I am humbled to have been given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only continue competing in the sport I love but also to represent a Division I track and field program.”
Cove Athletic Director Candy McGilvray, herself a CHS graduate who went on to play college basketball at Boise State in the 1980s, talked about what it takes to reach that upper echelon.
“A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic,” McGilvray said at the assembly. “It takes sweat, determination and hard work. Today we celebrate a person who was willing to drive and work yearlong to reach (her) goal.”
Pettit is a three-time state champion in the 1A girls 100 — twice at Monument and earlier this spring with Cove, where she set a 1A state meet record at 12.33 seconds in the preliminaries. Her personal best in the event of 12.19 seconds earlier this spring was seventh-fastest in the state, regardless of classification. She also won state in the long jump, was second in both the 200 and the triple jump, and as a freshman won the state title in the 200.
It’s no wonder, then, that multiple D-I schools took a look at Pettit, who holds school records at both Monument and Cove. Pettit told The Observer that the Naval Academy, Montana State, Nebraska-Omaha and Hawaii were among several D-I programs that recruited her.
But she knew once she visited Weber State in October, that she was home.
“I felt like I belonged there. Everything felt right,” Pettit said. “The scholarship offer was right, team facility. Everything that could be right was right. It was the perfect fit.”
Pettit said her dad, Earl, who is now the Cove School District’s superintendent, encouraged her to try out for track in Monument when she was in the sixth grade. She had immediate success when she set a meet record in the 100. And although it took some time, track became a sport she eventually took seriously.
“The more I did it and kept having success in the sport, the more I realized it was something I enjoyed,” she said.
Pettit said the athletic ability is in her genes, noting her parents, Earl and Nittaya, were both high school athletes.
“I knew I was athletic, but I didn’t realize I was fast until I started doing it. The natural ability took me through middle school.”
The 12.50-second 100-meter race in just her third high school competition, at Culver on March 30, 2016, opened eyes statewide and showed that her skill could translate to success at the prep level. How well it did, though, wasn’t known until she won her first state title that spring.
“It wasn’t until after the state meet that I realized I was competitive at the high school level,” she said.”
Pettit went on to win state again in the 100 as a sophomore, and did so after working her way back from a serious ankle injury late in the fall.
“(I) tore several ligaments and broke the bone in my ankle,” she said. “That was probably the biggest mental hurdle I had to face.”
She posted times of under 12.40 seconds in each of her last four races in the 100 this spring, and she believes that, with some work, getting down to 12 seconds flat in her senior campaign is possible.
A standout in the classroom as well as on the track, Pettit, who has a 4.0 GPA, will head to Weber State next year with most of her general education courses out of the way.
“I just wanted to get ahead, take advantage of the opportunity of having dual-credit courses,” she said. “It is going to help me focus on track more. The transition will be a bit easier.”
Pettit intends to compete in the same four events in college — 100, 200, long jump and triple jump.
“They definitely want to work on my start,” she said of areas Weber State coaches to focus on. “I’ve been a weak starter. (They also want to) work on my jumping form and my technique.”
Fortunately, she’ll have the chance to learn from one of the best. Former NCAA champion and Olympian Tiffany Hogan is the coach for sprints, long and triple jump for the Wildcats.
“It’s an honor to be coached by someone as talented and knowledgeable (as Hogan),” she said.
Where Pettit will go from here remains to be seen, but one can bet that she’ll be making waves again as she jumps to the next level — just as she did back in middle school.