At just 19 years old, 400-meter specialist Talitha Diggs is already making a name for herself.
Her successful sophomore year at the University of Florida included not only winning the NCAA titles in the 400m indoor (50.98) and outdoor (49.99) — and helping the Gators secure team titles at both — but also, she captured her first U.S. title in the 400m (50.22) last month at iconic Hayward Field.
The week, the rising junior is taking aim at her first international title at the 2022 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., where she’ll compete Wednesday evening in the women’s 400m semifinals. But considering her legacy as American track and field royalty, Diggs’ swift rise as a contender isn’t so unexpected.
“My interpretation of hard work is consistency,” said Diggs, the daughter of four-time U.S. Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs, who competed in five world championships in the 800m. “It’s something that I pride myself on, something that my mother has instilled in me, just putting your nose down and executing and doing what you have to do.”
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That determination is undoubtedly a reflection of lessons learned from her mother, who witnessed first-hand the gradual progression of women’s sports opportunities during her 25-year career thanks to the advent of Title IX.
“When I look out and see my daughter, the fact is watching her train and watching her do doing some of the same things that I did, it brings me a lot of joy,” Clark Diggs recently told NBC Sports. “… When you look at things the way they used to be, and the way they are now, it’s night and day. I think as parents, it’s important for us to talk about the past and try and connect it to the future.”
“My mother always expressed the importance of you know, taking advantage of every single opportunity that you’re afforded,” said Diggs, whose family tree also includes track-and-field standouts Hazel Clark and Jearl Miles-Clark, her aunts, who amassed 11 worlds appearances between them. Fun fact: Diggs’ maternal grandfather is educator Joe Louis Clark, the subject of the 1989 film “Lean on Me” starring Morgan Freeman.
“My mom has been the most consistent person in my life,” added Diggs. “She was really a trailblazer for Title IX and to see you know her daughter reap some of the benefits — I think that she gets to, in a sense, live through me and feel and resonate with my story as I grow up. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her.”
Four women in the field at worlds have cracked the 50-second barrier this season, and Diggs is one of them. Her winning performance at the NCAA outdoors marked a personal best at 49.99, making her the fifth-fastest collegian ever in the 400m and the youngest American woman to ever run under 50 seconds in the event.
Diggs advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals by finishing second in her heat. Eight runners from the semifinal round will advance to the women’s 400m final, which is set for Friday.