Junior All-America Tynita Butts is primed for the NCAA Indoor Championships March 9-10.
March 5, 2012
By Sam Hickman
It didn't take long for Blaney to witness his two-time All-America performer do it again last week in Birmingham.
Butts, having already collected her second consecutive C-USA Indoor title in the high jump, focused her attention to qualifying for the NCAA Championships - a feat which demanded a clearance of the bar at 1.85 meters.
She scratched on her first two attempts.
However, as if Blaney's previous comments were some sort of prophecy, Butts nailed her final try.
If adding to an already-packed trophy case and solidifying her position as one of the best collegiate jumpers in America wasn't enough, producing 10 points for the team was.
The Pirates found themselves locked in a seal-tight battle with defending champion No. 15 UCF, and Butts' winning mark proved critical as East Carolina went on to capture its first ever team C-USA title.
Dating back to the 2011 C-USA Indoor Championships, Butts has captured the last three league high jump crowns.
During her first two years in a Pirate uniform, the highly-decorated jumper claimed a combined 15 event titles.
A native of Alexandria, Va., and graduate of T.C. Williams High School - the setting of the Academy Award winning film Remember the Titans - Butts brings quite the personality to the Pirates' increasingly prominent track program.
It seems impossible to define Butts by anything other than a vast array of accomplishments, medals and awards garnered throughout the last two-and-a-half track seasons. However, her eccentricity and versatility away from competition are impossible to ignore. Shattering records and elevating herself into one of the country's elite athletes is only a small facet in the life of "Ty." There isn't much she can't do.
Yes, she can.
First, there's the music.
Butts hails from an immensely-talented family, which includes guitarists, pianists, producers, hip-hop artists and singers. She is heavily involved in her home church in Virginia and puts her musical gifts to use in various capacities. Butts is a self-taught piano player. She also picked up the guitar during her freshman year in Greenville and now plays with regularity, claiming the six-string has now become a passion more than a hobby.
"Everybody in the family is musical in some way," Butts said. "My big sister and big brother can't sing, but they make beats and produce great music. My father played the organ in church and everyone in my mother's family has a great voice. We would all go to my aunt's house and go down to the studio and make music all day. We loved it. When I wasn't practicing or doing homework, that's where I was."
Then, there are the sign language and martial arts.
Butts completed the first two courses in American Sign Language during her freshman and sophomore years as a student and indicated she would have pursued it even further had more classes been offered in that field of study.
"I loved it," she said, noting yet another unique talent she wanted to master. "I still have a dream of coaching deaf athletes or even being an interpreter in the church. Really, anything that I could do to help the deaf would be amazing."
Butts has also spent time in training sessions learning Muay Thai martial arts - a combat sport of Thailand that combines stand-up striking along with clinching techniques. A boxing, karate and kickboxing-hybrid, Muay Thai's methods are adopted by several mixed martial artists.
Butts' personal life - which also includes a knack for drawing, painting and making jewelry - defines who she is when she's not bringing home hardware from track events throughout the United States. Blaney attributes this as a large reason for her success in athletics.
"Tynita is very grounded," he said. "She sets high expectations for herself and she's disappointed when she doesn't reach those goals, but that doesn't define her. I think it's vital for any athlete to prioritize. Track and field is important to her, but she puts a greater importance on other things. It helps her put things in perspective, no matter if she's winning or losing."
Although Butts says she is a realist, and knows it will take an abundance of hard work and dedication to become an Olympic athlete, she said her mindset has become increasingly optimistic.
"There's still plenty of time," Butts said. "People will come up to me and say, `You're going to be an Olympian,' and I used to shrug it off. Maybe now it seems like a real chance. We'll see. It's whatever God has planned for me."
As an athlete, "Ty" is arguably the best overall jumper in Conference USA. How close is she to bringing home a first-place finish nationally? This weekend will prove quite the measuring stick.