VCU junior sprinter Kiara Porter didn’t develop a passion for track and field until she was in eighth grade, but once she laced up the cleats for the first time, the Yorktown, Va. native never looked back.
Porter says her inspiration came from her mother, Gail Hannah, who also competed in track and field competitions when she was in high school. Porter got serious about competition when she entered Tabb High School in 2007, and says she grew up idolizing U.S. Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix for her talent and character.
“(Allyson Felix) is a great athlete that runs a lot of sprints and relays,” Porter said. “I also like the way she carries herself on and off the track.”
At 5-foot-1, Porter doesn’t quite size up to the 5-foot-6 world-class athlete in Felix. But she does run many of the same events that have helped make Felix famous.
During her career at Tabb High School, Porter was crowned the 2011 Virginia AA Indoor State Champion in both the 55-meter dash and the 300-meter dash. She was also a member of the first place 4×400 meter relay team and claimed the state title in the 200m — an event Felix has experienced great success in.
Porter broke the state record for the 400m and competed on a championship 4x400m relay team all at the 2011 VHSL State Outdoor Championships. She was also a two-time AAU National Champion in the 4x400m relay.
But despite her success at the high school level, Porter was not entirely sure she would pursue track in college upon graduation. Her uncertainty lasted until the summer before her senior year, when Porter decided to join the 5 Star Track Club, an elite AAU team in the Yorktown area.
There, Porter competed with the 4x400m relay team and secured two AAU National Championships before claiming the 2011 AAU Summer Junior Olympics championship.
As her impressive resume grew longer, universities across the country began to take notice of Porter’s talent. Soon, she had interest letters from track and field programs offering her scholarships.
Eventually, Porter landed on VCU. She says it wasn’t just the success of the track program that attracted her to Richmond.
“The VCU track team was like a big family,” Porter said. “I liked how close the team was with one another and the coaches.”
Porter says she especially valued the team’s camaraderie because she grew up as the only child in a single-parent household. She says she entered college wanting a “family” away from home that was full of love and companionship.
In her freshman year at VCU, the sprinter experienced some challenges with the competition. She says the collegiate stage proved to be more competitive than she initially expected, and the enhanced talent level of the other Division I athletes helped fuel her desire to improve.
At times, Porter said she was frustrated with not being able to perform up-to-par with her adversaries.
“I was not patient and had to learn to be more disciplined,” Porter said.
However, her fortune began to change at the Penn State Invite during the 2012 indoor season. There, Porter claimed her first collegiate victory in the 400m race and recorded her season-best time in the 200m dash. Porter said the first and second place finishes helped catalyze her confidence, which grew with time.
Soon, the collegiate accomplishments began piling up. She broke a school record for the 400m dash at the 2012 USA Junior Outdoor Championships and earned a spot on the USA 4x400m relay team competing at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain. The relay team brought home a gold medal.
Ever since her freshman campaign, Porter has dominated the competition and broken several school records in the process.
She is a five-time Atlantic 10 champion with victories in the outdoor 200m dash, the outdoor 4x100m relay and the 4×400 relay. She also earned the NCAA Honorable Mention All-American honor in 2013 for the 400m race.
Porter has been named the A-10 athlete of the week three of the past four weeks and holds school records for the indoor 400m and 500m dashes, as well as the outdoor 200m and 400m races.
In addition to the long list of running awards, Porter’s success in the classroom has helped her earn NCAA Academic All-American status twice.
This season, Porter says she hopes to win her respective events at the A-10 conference championships and make it to the NCAA Indoor Nationals once again.
But despite her tremendous collegiate success, Porter says she still isn’t certain that track and field will be her profession.
“If the opportunity comes to go pro I will do it,” Porter said. “However, it is not my only option.”
Porter is majoring in finance at VCU and would like to go to graduate school for business management if sprinting doesn’t work out.