Taylar Stallings admits she didn't know anything about the University of South Florida. Coaches at the Division I college knew about her, though.
The Bulls wanted the Evans High School senior in their stable in Tampa, and made the shotput star an offer she couldn't refuse - a 70 percent athletic scholarship, the largest amount USF ever extended to a freshman thrower.
Stallings made it official last week by signing a letter of intent to attend USF on a track-and-field scholarship next season.
The signing ceremony Thursday at Evans capped a rapid rise for Stallings. She entered the school year as a relatively unknown athlete, but has emerged as a state-title contender in the shot.
"I've been going up against girls 18 times my size, and that made me work harder," she said. "I like the attention I get because I'm so small and everybody thinks I'm in the wrong event."
Evans High School track-and-field star Taylar Stallings smiles after signing her scholarship to attend the Univer-sity of South Florida. With her are her father, Gerald Stallings (from left), Shannon Dent and her mother. Vanessa Stallings
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When Stallings picks up the 8-pound, 13-ounce shot, size doesn't matter. In fact, Evans coach Dave Machovec calls her "the best high school thrower in Columbia County history."
This spring, Stallings has posted a shot of 45 feet, 6 inches, the longest throw by a girl this year in the Georgia High School Association. She also has thrown the discus 129 feet, 5 inches, which is third-best in the state.
Stallings also was recruited by Syracuse, Tennessee, Southern Mississippi and Wake Forest, but after a recent visit to Tampa, she settled on four years of fun in the sun at South Florida.
"I learned they had a great throwing program, so I checked them out," she said. "After that visit, my decision was made. The coaches and facilities are great, and it's beautiful down there."
Stallings will throw discus, shot and hammer for the Bulls, and she's not intimidated about stepping up to the next level.
"I'm very excited, because I love competition," Stallings said. "I'll be at a great school competing against the best college throwers in the nation. That will make me work even harder so I can beat them."
As good as Stallings is now, she has not even scratched the surface on her potential, according to Machovec. He expects the senior to break the state record in shot at the GSHA state championships next month, and then really turn it on during her college career.
"I think she could qualify for the NCAA's her first year," Machovec said. "With good coaching, some throwers gain five of six feet during their first year of college."
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