Track and field has been a part of Danielle Bryant's life since she was 4 years old. Success in age group competitions turned into a breakout 2019 season for the Pine-Richland athlete as a recent change in disciplines helped move her toward the top of the rankings in Pennsylvania. Bryant ended the year as a medalist in both Class AAA hurdle finals in Shippensburg, along with being the lone underclassman in the AAA 300s. She was the top returner in Pennsylvania in both the high and intermediate hurdles entering the 2020 outdoor track & field season.
PennTrackXC's Phil Grove caught up with the Ram junior for some quick questions and answers about track and field and training during COVID-19.
Q: You got an early start in track and field. What other sports have you played and what kept you interested in track?
A: I have played soccer and basketball. I did soccer for nine years, and basketball for four years. The big difference between track and these sports is the feelings felt while playing. During track it allows for a "runner's high." The feeling being euphoric kept me interested in track. When in relays, the feeling of a perfect handoff, connecting with your teammates and running with your teammates is what keeps me attracted to track.
Q: Just about every track athlete has a story about the first time they tried to hurdle, whether in practice or competition. How was your introduction to hurdling and what are your hurdling strengths and weaknesses now?
A: My first introduction was to put it lightly an epic fail. I started with 200 hurdles, but I was not the most natural hurdler. I fell after the second hurdle, but instead of that discouraging me, it inspired me to work harder and get better. My strength in hurdling is that instead of being afraid of hurdles I charge to them and continue my stride after. My weakness is that I am a new hurdler, so my hurdle form could use work to be more efficient but I work daily to improve upon this.
Q: You had a pretty successful 2020 indoor season, winning 4 of 5 finals in the 60 hurdles. Were you satisfied with your performances this winter?
A: I was not satisfied with my indoor season. Although I won most of my events, winning doesn't mean everything to me. Indoor season provided an opportunity to work on my hurdle form. Western PA doesn't have the best indoor tracks, and I didn't reach my full potential. Due to western PA not having the best tracks, I wanted to focus on my training in order to be the best I can be in my outdoor season. I did not run at states due to this, but I planned to run at New Balance Nationals Indoor.
Q: Athletes and coaches have had to be creative in devising workouts this spring because of restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus - no group workouts, no meets and many if not most tracks being closed to any activity. What have you been doing to stay sharp in your specialty, the hurdles, and be in shape when track meets can return?
A: My mom was a hurdler in college and high school and my dad a football player in college. They both devise hard workouts to keep me in shape and ready for any race. I work to break my mom's high school hurdle time of 42.3 in the 300 hurdles. To keep me in check with hurdles, we have four at home so I'm constantly doing drills.
Q: You were in the top 5 last year in PA in the 100, 300 and 400 hurdles. Which do you think is your best event and why?
A: I think the 300 hurdles are my best event. Through my two years of doing this event, I had a breakthrough last year of finally understanding how to properly run this event. My years of running the open 400 have allowed for the 300 hurdles to be an easy distance. Hurdle technique is not as important in the 300 hurdles as it is in the 100 hurdles as well as the 300 allows for my stride to open up and to have the ability to run between hurdles.
Q: The 300 hurdles is one of the most difficult events in high school track. How difficult are the extra two hurdles and the final 100 meters in the 400 hurdles?
A: The two extra hurdles in the 400 hurdles are the hardest in that race. I am so used to running the 300 hurdles so adding an extra 100 meters was a challenge to get used to but the last 100 meters of this race is my best due to my strength.
Q: As a junior, the college recruiting process is well under way for you. What are you looking for in a college/university and track and field program?
A: In colleges/universities, I am looking for a place that feels like a second home. I want a place that has a good academic reputation as well as an emphasis on track.
Q: What are your goals once meets return?
A: My goals once track returns is to keep improving on my hurdle form which would improve my times.I would love to improve my times into the 13s for the 100 hurdles, into the 40s for the 300 hurdles, and around 57 for the 400 hurdles. I look to try and be the best hurdler I can and to have fun while doing it.