Defending Class 2A Bellingham 100-meter state champion sprinter Alyssa Porter always hoped she finish her high school career with an opportunity to compete at the collegiate level.
She just never envisioned the track would be her ticket to a scholarship.
"I mean when I started this my freshman year, I had no idea that I was going to be going to a D1 school for track," Porter said. "I always said it was going to be basketball."
Porter was a basketball star during her time as a Red Raider. She led her teams in scoring, averaging just south of 12 points per game and terrorized guards with her fast, defensive play.
Track, though, is where she's truly blossomed.
Porter capped a strong junior year with a state title in the 100, running a 12.42 at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships. She'll be looking to become a two-time champ this spring before she heads to Division I University of Nevada-Reno, where she's been offered a scholarship to compete.
UNR is a member of the 12-team Mountain West Conference.
"It's an amazing opportunity," Porter said. "I am so happy and so thankful for my teammates, my coach, everyone. I think it's going to be a great experience."
It wasn't until Porter's sophomore season when she started to feel sprints would give her the best chance to continue being an athlete in college.
Porter ran an 11.96 during the prelims of the 2A Track and Field Championships. The time is still her personal record, and it was nearly a second faster than her 12.86 freshman PR. She left Mount Tahoma High School with a second-place medal, finishing behind former Blaine standout Cherish Morrison.
"I think the biggest part was my sophomore year, when I started running those fast times," Porter said. "I thought maybe I have something here that I don't quite have in basketball."
As evident by her time drops, Porter underwent a major change during her first and second seasons. Porter admitted she originally thought being a strong track athlete took no more than some fast strides and natural running ability, but Red Raiders sprint coach Dena Birade has completely reconstructed Porter's running motion.
The adjustments have helped her become one of the best female sprinters in the state.
"I came in not knowing at all what track was about," Porter said. "I didn't think there was much to track. (I thought) you go and run, but there is so much more technique to it. You have to work your arms. You have to work your legs. You have to know when to do different things and use different strategies. I've grown so much as a person from track, as well."
Much of that growth has come from working with both her teammates and Birade, Porter said.
Birade's passion has infected Porter, and her hard work has elevated her to the level she competes at.
"She is a tough coach," Porter said of Birade. "I mean, she loves the sport. She's still doing it, competing in masters. She doesn't give up and has so much passion for it that I think she kind of rubs off on me. I've been so happy working with her, because I had one of the worst forms coming in, and she's just done so much and has worked so hard with me to be better."
Porter received several college offers, she said, but her choices narrowed down to Western Washington University and Nevada-Reno. While she said the opportunity to compete for her hometown college was enticing, ultimately she yearned for an experience she knew she'd never get at home.
"I mean Western has a great program," Porter said. "They are a good school. The coach is great, too, but with UNR it's an experience I'll never get anywhere else. It's not all about D1, but they have people there where I might not be the fastest one, but I will be the best I can be."
Although Porter will be hundreds of miles away from home, she believes the beginning of her college career will be similar to the start of her freshman year at Bellingham
"I came in not knowing at all what track was about, so coming in with people who are running faster than me, I will be doing that again," Porter said. "Those people I'm going to be running against, they will push me everyday. Even if I'm not the best, I'll be running my best times, and I'm excited for that."
Porter said she plans to study mechanical engineering at UNR.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.