When Bellingham's Alyssa Porter leaves later this summer to begin college at the University of Nevada, Reno, it's hard to fathom that she'll be competing on the track instead of the basketball court.
Porter grew up in a basketball family. She began playing as soon as she could walk and enjoyed a successful high school career, averaging a team-high 11.6 points per game her senior season while helping the Red Raiders reach the Class 2A State Tournament.
Her first track and field practice didn't come until her freshman year of high school, and even then she competed in order to cross train for basketball.
"I think about it all the time," said Porter in a phone interview of how she's ended up with a brighter future in track than basketball. "That's one of the main things I think about when I get closer and closer to taking off for college. My entire life was basketball, and now I'm trying to pursue running as far as I can. It's funny to think I wasn't even going to do it. My friends made me do it, and I wouldn't be here it wasn't for them."
Although Porter never ran competitively before joining the Red Raiders' track and field team, her potential was obvious. She had undeniable speed. Such speed even her youth softball coach took notice when she was in second grade.
Porter earned the nickname 'Rabbit', because she was small and quick, she said. Later, it was her high school friends that witnessed her speed on the basketball court and forced her to come out for track.
Porter's never regretted her decision, and for good reason. She's established herself as one of the fastest girls in the state during her four years at Bellingham High and earned the right to be called the fastest girl in Class 2A each of the past two seasons with a pair of state championships in the 100 meters.
She added a state title this spring as a member of the Red Raiders' 4x100 relay team, placed second in the 4x200 relay and finished fourth in state in the 200.
Porter joined the exclusive sub-12 second group with her 11.87 100-meter sprint during state prelims. The time placed her third among state sprinters in all classifications. She helped Bellingham placed third at state with 45 points and contributed in the classroom to the Red Raiders' academic state title.
For another outstanding track and field season, Porter has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Girls' Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Sehome co-coaches Kevin Ryan and Tim Carlson have been selected Coach of the Year for guiding the Mariners to their fourth state title in the past five seasons.
Porter had speed when she began learning under Bellingham sprints coach Dena Birade. But she didn't have technique.
"I had no form," Porter admitted. "It was just kind of how I would run in a basketball game. My toes were pointed. Constantly, (Birade) would be yelling, 'You're pointing your toes, dorsiflex,' from across the field. I didn't think about my arms or lifting my knees or any sort of form-relating thing."
Still, Porter went into the season open-minded, she said, but it wasn't until toward the end of her freshman year when she began understanding the intricacies of sprinting and what goes into it.
And even though Porter was in the midst of sculpting her form, she contributed to Bellingham's state team her first season, helping the Red Raiders place third in the 4x100 relay. She also qualified for the 100 but didn't advance to the finals.
Porter's times have improved each season, and she credits Birade and her family for the ability to elevate her sprinting career to new heights.
"Dena has been a huge part of it," Porter said. "I don't think I would be anywhere near where I am if it wasn't for her being right there with me supporting me through this, and family. My family is everything to me. They have been so close and my mom, especially."
Porter's medal haul is vast. She won conference titles and bi-district titles in both the 100 and 200 this spring to go along with her state-title medals in the 100 and 4x1, a second place medal in the 4x2 and fourth-place medal in the 200.
Porter won her first 100-meter state championship last year and added another title in the 4x100, a fifth-place medal in the 4x2 and an eighth-place medal in the 200.
As a sophomore, she took second in the 100, first in the 4x100, second in the 4x2 and fourth in the 200.
Combined, Porter's won five state titles, three second-place medals and a fourth-, fifth- and eighth-place finish at state.
Not bad for a girl who never anticipated being a track and field athlete.
"There was pressure," Porter said. "You have great athletes running against you. Sarah Dolese, she has been a great competitor for years. You have to be nervous to run against her, but for me it's just the more I tell myself it's for the times, I want to do the best for myself and kind of put those nerves aside."
Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang @bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
GIRLS' TRACK AND FIELD WINNERS
2014: Alyssa Porter, Bellingham
2013: Gina Flint, Squalicum
2012: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2011: Zoe Moeller, Sehome
2010: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2009: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2008: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2007: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2006: Meghan Dahl, Ferndale
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.