PUMPKIN CENTER –– Caitlin Potter is a highly intelligent high school student who happens to be a very good runner.
After stumbling upon the academic program of her dreams, she also found herself with a spot on its cross country and track and field teams.
The North Lincoln senior who sports a top-10 GPA in her graduating class was accepted recently into the University of South Carolina’s nationally-ranked exercise science program, and signed a national letter of intent with the Gamecocks in the process to become the Knights’ second female runner to sign with a SEC school this year.
In making her college choice, Potter, a former softball player turned competitive runner, was looking for a school that offered some of the best, academically, to facilitate her dream of becoming a physical therapist.
When she found out South Carolina had a nationally-accredited exercise science program, she applied and was accepted.
She then inquired about its running programs, and found the perfect fit in Columbia, S.C.
“It was one of the last schools that I looked at. I didn’t even think about (South Carolina) that much, but I got into contact with the coach after I found out they have a top-five-in-the-nation program for academics for what I want to do, because I want to go into exercise science. That was the biggest factor,” Potter said.
After a youth full of softball Potter decided to give track and field a try as a freshman. Knights coach Jerry Castro, whose daughter, Allie, signed with Georgia last month, saw her potential in the distance events, so he persuaded Potter to join the cross country team in the fall.
Potter hasn’t stopped running or competing with herself since.
“Running is a very big part of my life. It definitely takes up a lot of my time, and to get to this level you definitely have to put a lot into it,” she said. “You get out of it what you put in. Other sports you don’t necessarily see the same improvement as you’d see in track and cross country because you can compare times.”
Potter, who finished third in the 3A Midwest regional last fall, is as disciplined as any runner Castro has had in his five years at North Lincoln.
“That’s probably her best attribute,” he said. “I don’t think she’s ever missed a practice in four years, and she’s never been hurt in four years, but that’s part of it because she’s so consistent. She takes care of all of the little things.
“She’ll come to practice and do everything she’s supposed to do, then finally leave knowing she has three AP tests tomorrow. She’s very, very disciplined … and also very talented.
“Because of her work ethic and dedication,” Castro added, “she’s going to do very well there.”
Potter, who chose the Gamecocks over Maryland, North Carolina, Elon and Virginia Tech, will attend South Carolina on an academic scholarship but has solidified herself a spot on its cross country and track and field teams.
She said she gets her discipline to excel from her father, and wants to attend graduate school to get her Doctorate in physical therapy.
“(Athletics) was always backseat to academics. … My dad is a big part of that, because that’s exactly how he is,” said Potter, who said she feels lucky to have found a school with such prestigious academics as well as athletics. “He raised me to put 100 percent into everything and to try at everything in life because you never know what opportunities are going to come around.”