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Lauryn Chandler is the favorite to defend her 110 hurdles championship as well as the 4x100 Knights relay

BREMERTON — Lauryn Chandler isn’t hard to find at a track and field meet.

Usually, you can hear her before you see her. The Bremerton senior is the loudest, and most fanatical, cheering section for her teammates — wherever they might be.

Chandler’s boundless passion for the sport of athletics comes from what she sees as limitless potential for her teammates. Chandler’s vision stems from her club experience, she competes for the Kitsap Fliers during the indoor and outdoor seasons, and knows talent when she sees it.

“I see when they put in the work they’re actually really good,” she said this week during a break in-between her studies and practice as she prepares for the 2A state track and field meet at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma Thursday-Saturday. Chandler is the top seed heading into the 100 hurdles and is a member of the defending champion 4×100 relay that includes fellow senior Tyiesha McWhorter, sophomore T’Caela Wilcher and sophomore Nyaijah Johnson.

Lauryn Chandler of Bremerton competes in the 300 hurdles during an Olympic League meet at Bremerton Memorial Stadium on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Chandler won the event in 53.33 seconds. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Lauryn Chandler of Bremerton competes in the 300 hurdles during an Olympic League meet at Bremerton Memorial Stadium on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Chandler won the event in 53.33 seconds. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Chandler can’t contain her excitement when she is an eyewitness to her teammates setting personal records and continuing to improve. She has a simple reason why.

“I want them to win,” she said. 

Bremerton track and field coach Jacklyn Renner said Chandler is a natural coach with a crazy passion for track and field.

“She just cares so much about others, I think it just comes really naturally for her,” Renner said. “She’s phenomenal.”

Winning was something that came relatively easy to Chandler when she began competing in track. As an eighth grader she left cheer and tumbling behind her to pursue the sport, specifically the hurdles. She went undefeated that season and had plenty of confidence heading into her freshman season. 

Her mother sent a photograph of Chandler going over the hurdles to the Fliers coaches. The response wasn’t what Lauryn had expected. Yes, Chandler may have been winning but her form was awful. Instead of sulking, Chandler was motivated.

She had to get better. She had to be the best and was challenged to do just that.

The youngest of eight siblings, Chandler has always had to fight for what she wanted. Whether it was attention from her family or due to her petite frame, she was often overlooked. 

“People never doubt me (because) of my talent, they doubt me (because) of my size,” she said. “And honestly it’s a motivator.”

Bremerton's 4x100 relay, Lauryn Chandler, clockwise upper left, T'Caela Wilcher, Tyishea McWhorter and Nyaijah Johnson, are all smiles on the top of the podium after winning the Class 2A state championship Saturday, May 26, 2018, at Mount Tahoma High School. McWhorter and Chandler qualified for the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, July 23-29 in Greensboro, N.C. Both McWhorter and Chandler compete for the Kitsap Fliers Track Club in Silverdale. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Bremerton’s 4×100 relay, Lauryn Chandler, clockwise upper left, T’Caela Wilcher, Tyishea McWhorter and Nyaijah Johnson, are all smiles on the top of the podium after winning the Class 2A state championship Saturday, May 26, 2018, at Mount Tahoma High School. McWhorter and Chandler qualified for the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, July 23-29 in Greensboro, N.C. Both McWhorter and Chandler compete for the Kitsap Fliers Track Club in Silverdale. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

One of Chandler’s sisters is a basketball standout who played in high level 3-on-3 tournaments, another sister was a cheerleader and taught Lauryn how to tumble when she was eight. Her brothers, Chandler said, were football players.

“They really taught me how to run because I always had to run from them,” she said. 

With her athleticism already putting her ahead of her peers, Chandler decided she wanted more from her burgeoning track career.

Her freshman season didn’t go well as Chandler had wanted but she qualified for districts. She made the state meet as a sophomore but was hampered by a hamstring injury.

Chandler’s breakout season came as a junior. She rounded into form and peaked in the postseason.

“Junior year I was just locked in,” she said.

Renner saw the work ethic that Chandler put in, whether it was during the indoor or outdoor seasons with her club, or in the weight room working on her strength, mobility and flexibility. Everything Chandler did was in order to improve.

“That’s been a huge difference for her in terms of being just above average to crushing the competition,” Renner said, adding she would like to see Chandler break the state record. “She can do that. She can run the fastest time in the state, not just 2As, but 3As, 4As and Bs.”

Last year, Chandler was seeded fourth in the hurdles after winning her preliminary race at the state meet. Chandler stayed with top seed, Madi Frampton of Black Hills, in the finals. Chandler realized she wasn’t running her style of race because she was focused on Frampton, who as a taller competitor was floating over the hurdles. Because of the repetition during practice, Chandler knew she was doing something wrong and was able to correct it during the race. 

“I was like, ‘OK Lauryn just snap,’ and I snapped and pulled away,” Chandler said, adding she couldn’t quite believe she won the state title. “I was numb.” 

Chandler credits Fliers coach Ron Atkins with teaching her everything she needs to know when it comes to track. He’s also stepped into the role of life coach, giving Chandler an experienced ear when she needs one.

“I don’t even think I’d be running track if it wasn’t for club,” Chandler said. The discipline and regimented schedule was exactly what she needed.

“I’m not going to lie, coming from a big family and my mom did foster care … it gave me structure and I’m so thankful for that. I don’t think I would be half the person I am without that. It’s also made me focus on academics and everything. I think Ron (Atkins) as more of a life mentor than I would a coach because you could really come to him with anything and he would always know what to do and how to help you. And that’s really awesome.”

Bremerton's Lauryn Chandler competes in the 100 hurdles at the West Central District 2A/1A track and field meet Friday, May 17, 2019, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium. Chandler won the hurdles in 14.78 seconds and qualified for the state meet. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Bremerton’s Lauryn Chandler competes in the 100 hurdles at the West Central District 2A/1A track and field meet Friday, May 17, 2019, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium. Chandler won the hurdles in 14.78 seconds and qualified for the state meet.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Chandler is confident — but not cocky — that she will defend her hurdles title. She’s not worried about the competition but rather making a mistake that will cost her the race.

“I really want to go sub-14 (seconds). That’s the number one thing,” she said, adding she’ll be chasing the clock. 

A 13-second time will also set Chandler up nicely for the junior national meet this summer.

“This year it’s my last year to compete and if I go sub-14 that will potentially put me in the finals of the hurdles at nationals, and they range from 13.6 to 14.6. So as long as I’m in that range I should be good. If I go sub-14 it’s a huge confidence booster.”

Chandler isn’t just set on winning more state medals. Her goals are much bigger. She’s already committed to attend Central Washington University, along with teammate McWhorter, a heptathlete, and will devote herself to the hurdles. 

The goal, she said, is to compete at the U.S. Track and Field Championships and qualify for the 2024 Olympics. Chandler said the response she gets from people about her desire to become an Olympian is half surprise and half encouraging.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone besides family tell me I wasn’t going to make it, but I told them to tell me I was going to make it so that would motivate me,” Chandler laughed.

And Chandler’s laugh is as big as her commitment to track and her teammates. 

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