Woodley Riding Momentum into NCAA West Preliminary Round
RIO GRANDE VALLEY – After multiple setbacks, redshirt freshman Tamara Woodley is preparing to leave her mark in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA West Preliminary Round from May 27-29 at Texas A&M’s E.B. Cushing Stadium.
(Goutrgv) – The St. Vincent and the Grenadines native joined The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) track & field program in 2019-20.
Woodley instantly made an impact during the 2020 indoor season as she was a member of the 4×400-meter relay team that took silver with a time of 3:51.74, the sixth-fastest in program history, at the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championships.
Unfortunately, Woodley suffered a hamstring injury during the meet. Things only worsened a few weeks later when the 2020 outdoor track & field season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Woodley battled through the numerous obstacles the recovery process presented. Despite the adversity Woodley faced, she never hung her head down and continued to push forward.
“I consider myself a very hardworking person,” Woodley said. “I look at other athletes coming from the same Caribbean Islands I come from, and I see them excelling and doing well and I’ve always said, ‘I not only want to be just like them, but I want to be better.’ I want to leave my own mark and impression everywhere I go.”
When the 2021 outdoor track & field season started at the Longhorn Invitational on March 6, her first race in over a year, Woodley felt confident in her abilities after her injury and the long layoff due to COVID-19.
“I knew where I stood cause I’d been doing well in practice and I’d been doing well in the weight room,” Woodley said. “I was warming up and I told myself ‘This race, I’m going to PR in this race.'”
Woodley did PR, finishing second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 54.49, the sixth-fastest time in program history, while winning the 4×400-meter relay with teammates junior Natalie Garza, freshman Josefine Eriksen and sophomore Diamond Lilly by setting the eighth fastest-time in program history at 3:50.73.
From there, Woodley’s season took off and never stopped as she had continued success in the 200 and 400-meter dashes as well as in the 4×400-meter relay, routinely scaling podiums and making her mark in the record book.
The snowball only continued to grow headed into the 2021 WAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Woodley knew she was poised for greatness.
“I started to see all the pieces of the puzzle come together and I’m like, ‘I can actually do something at conference.’
Woodley earned Most Outstanding Women’s Freshman and Most Outstanding Track Performer honors by totaling 28 points.
Individually, she ran the 200-meter dash in a program record 23.72 second in the preliminaries and then took gold the next day with a time 23.96, the fourth-fastest in program history. Woodley was also crowned WAC Champion in the 400-meter dash with a time of 53.54, the second-fastest unadjusted time in program history, but fastest once adjusting for altitude of the previous program record per NCAA rules.
In the 4×400-meter relay, Woodley and teammates Eriksen, Lilly and junior Zarrey Sams finished runner-up with a time 3:50.84.
“She had as good of a meet as anyone could have had,” UTRGV head coach Darren Flowers said. “She works her tail off. She’s always worked hard since she’s got here. She’s smart. She’s dedicated. She understands what this thing is all about. I told her after she reached the finish line in the 200, ‘You deserve every bit of this. You deserve every bit of what you’re doing right now.'”
Woodley enters the west preliminaries as the 38th-seed in the 400-meter dash and she is excited for the opportunity to represent UTRGV.
“The feeling is just good because I’m happy that my season isn’t over and I have one more shot to go there, do even better and surpass all of my expectations,” Woodley said. “These small things you just have to be grateful for them because there are a lot of people out there that would want to have the opportunity of going to regionals.”
Still only a redshirt freshman, Woodley awes at her early collegiate success with the hopes of greater opportunities to come in the future.
“The other day, I had a reality check and I said to myself, ‘I’m a freshman.’ If I could do this as a freshman, imagine what with more years of serious training I could do.”