In the week leading up to last season’s SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championship, South Carolina’s Natasha Dicks knew something had to change.
The former Aiken High track star had been having some success, but not at the level she wanted.
The turning point for Dicks, then a sophomore, didn’t happen on the track, it happened in her hotel room the night before the start of the event.
Dicks removed the Bible fromthe side table drawer and began reading. The impromptu Bible study led to a lengthy conversation with her roommate and a decision that changed a lot.
“I had gone through a lot and I hadn’t been to church in a while, so I just decided to read it that night,” Dicks said. “After that and talking with my teammate, I made up my mind that I was just going to go out there and have fun.”
That’s exactly what Dicks did, and along the way she turned in the best performance of her college career in the triple jump and the long jump. Her triple jump result was good enough to catapult her to ninth in the regional rankings and get her a spot in the East Regional Championships.
Her success carried over to this year’s indoor track season. Dicks had a a school-record jump of 43-9 3/4 at the SEC Championships. She is ranked fourth in the country, putting her back with the nation’s elite, just as she spent most of her high school career. She came to USC in 2013 as the fifth-ranked high school girl in America in the event.
Dicks said part of the key to her success this season has been getting back to the mentality she had at Aiken High. In her first couple of years as a Gamecock, she said she spent too much time worrying about what other athletes they were doing and where she fit in competition-wise.
“I went through this faze of trying to figure out who I was. Last year, I thought back to high school. Back then, I didn’t really have to worry about too much. I would just have fun, so that’s what I got back to,” Dicks said. “I have learned it’s all about trust. You have to trust the program, your coach and trust yourself.”
Dicks said her trust in assistant coach Delethea Quarles helped. Quarles has joined Dicks on a journey that the coach has described as a learning experience for both. The strength of the relationship between the two has made it easier for Dicks to focus and be mentally prepared for things on and off the track.
“We’ve worked on her consistency,” Quarles said. “There’s athletic maturity and maturity as a person. Then there are the technical parts, speed mechanics. We’ve worked hard with her to be better and more consistent.”
Dicks will be making her first appearance at nationals. The women’s triple jump trials and finals will be held Saturday at 6 p.m. at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
“I’m not really big on setting goals. I just jump,” Dicks said “Whether I PR by two feet or by two inches, it won’t matter. I’m going to give it my all.”