by Jerry Byrd
Last summer, Ruston head coach Allen Whitaker heard about his Lady Bearcat transfer, Bryanna Craig, a week before multi-talented, nationally-ranked athlete arrived in Ruston.
Whitaker had heard about Craig’s father, who won Big East championships as a track and field athlete for Connecticut, moving from Lubbock, where he was an assistant for the Red Raiders, to join Gary Stanley’s staff at Louisiana Tech.
“I looked up her performances,” Whitaker said. “I was like ‘Oh, wow!’”
“Oh, wow!” Is right.
Craig won a UIL 5A state championship for Lubbock Coronado in the girls long jump with a leap just over 19 feet. She also finished as runner up in the 100 hurdles (14.08) and finished fifth in the high jump (5-4).
As impressed as Whitaker was when he researched Craig’s performances, he has been even more impressed watching her prepare for her senior season.
“Her work ethic is amazing,” Whitaker said. “She has impressed me with how hard she works, and how smart she works. She is very technical, and always has a great attitude. Always smiling.”
As happy as Whitaker has been to add Craig to a loaded roster which includes state champions Jada Williams and Lilly Garrett, Craig is just as happy with her new school, new team, and new teammates.
“I love it here,” Craig said. “Yes, I’m the new girl, but the way that everyone has made me feel at home it doesn’t seem that way. It has been a comfortable transition, and I’m just happy to part of very good track program.”
During the first few weeks of the indoor season, Craig has picked up in Louisiana where she left off in Texas, leading the state in three events according to Louisiana Milesplit. She has the fastest time in the 800 (2:24.75) and the best efforts in both the long jump (18-5.25) and high jump (5-8).
But it’s the 60 meter hurdles her coach is most impressed with.
“She came in with a best of 9.03,” Whitaker said. “She has lowered that to 8.83.”
Whitaker thinks those times will continue to drop as he continues to work with his star pupil on her acceleration and strength.
No matter what the new Ruston phenom accomplishes during the bell lap of her high school track and field career, she has already realized one dream last month when, during the early signing period, she signed a letter of intent with Louisiana Tech, giving her the opportunity to be coached by her father.
“To be able to compete in college and be coached by my father—It’s a dream come true,” Craig said. “I began dreaming of this when I was a freshmen in high school. Now, it’s right around the corner.”
But there are still things to check off the Craig To Do list. At the top is helping the Ruston girls team make history by winning the school’s first ever LHSAA State Indoor Championship. She will get that opportunity in a month when Ruston travels to Baton Rouge on Saturday, February 19th.
“It would make me so happy,” Craig said. “For us to be able to accomplish that. The boys have won a state championship. It would be a joy to contribute to help the girls win a title…and get those rings.”
Whitaker has been in the game long enough to know that it will not be easy.
“St. Joseph’s, Scotlandville, Zachary,” Whitaker said. “They have great athletes too. You always know that those programs are going to show up and compete. We are going to go down there, perform at our very best, and see what happens.”