PROVIDENCE — Back in the spring of 2010 at the outdoor state meet, Kaylnn “K.K.” Pitts shocked the competition (and herself) when the then-freshman from Woonsocket High cleared 5 feet, 3 inches to earn the individual title in the high jump.
“I didn’t think I would win, really,” Pitts recalled. “I wasn’t really counting my steps. I was just jumping.”
Since that breakthrough performance only one person has stood in the way of the Villa Novan standout repeating the feat. It was an athlete that actually finished third that day, La Salle Academy’s Dakota Dailey-Harris.
Dailey-Harris earned both titles last year, winning the indoor championship with a state and meet record of 5-7 and then denying an outstanding 5-7 effort from Pitts on the outdoor surface with another state and meet mark of 5-9 ¼.
Prior to Pitts competing in her specialty at Tuesday night’s Bayha Division meet between Westerly and Mount St. Charles Academy, head coach Dan Richard talked about his gifted junior and her progression to elite status.
“I think K.K. has gotten much better,” Richard said. “She’s getting beaten by the state indoor and outdoor record-setter. Dakota is certainly the best that has ever been in Rhode Island, but where K.K.’s at right now, I would put her against anybody.”
In last night’s meet, held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy field house, Pitts held off Mount St. Charles senior Ali Sayles with a winning height of 5-2. It was only the second time she has competed in the high jump this season with her last coming on Dec. 17, a win at the RITCA Invitational, also at 5-2.
“She’s coming along,” Richard said. “I don’t think she is at her peak jump performance but she is getting much better at practice. She is three-stepping over five feet, 5-2. That’s a good sign. She is getting the pop back in her legs and she’s coming around with her technique. I think she is going to be right there, hopefully again at the end of the season.”
Pitts is content with her winter campaign so far. She also set a personal best of 17-1 ½ in the long jump when she finished third in the event at the RITCA meet. She believes maybe a little improvement on her form and a longer approach to the bar will enable her to overtake her nemesis from La Salle.
It’s something she has worked on diligently this season.
“I used to have a shorter distance so my speed was faster,” Pitts said. “Now that I have a longer distance, I have to keep the consistency. It’s different. It’s definitely different.”
A few tweaks and Richard feels Pitts will certainly bring her ability to another level.
“I think she has to work on a couple of things,” he said. “I think technique, I think she still has a little bit of improvement, and I think she needs to get a little skinnier over the bar. Those hopefully will come as she gets a little older and stronger.”
Right now, Dailey-Harris is clearly the favorite for another state crown. Last week at the R.I. Track Classic, she set another indoor record when she leaped 5-8 in a relay for the Rams.
“I think she’s exceptionally strong as a jumper and I think her technique is almost flawless,” Richard said. “When you have that combination with power and technique, that’s why she’s the reigning state champion.”
Dailey-Harris, who also starts for the school’s highly-successful basketball team, was not at yesterday’s Headley Division meet versus Barrington and Cumberland. The chance of a Pitts vs. Dailey-Harris matchup will either come at the inaugural East Coast Invitational on Jan. 21 or the Large School Championship on Feb. 8.
Pitts knows what she had to do to finally defeat her rival.
“I have to have a little more focus on myself,” she said. “I think my speed is the same. If I can keep it the same through the whole thing, I definitely feel like I can beat her. And I just need to work on my form a little more.”
Richard is looking forward to another great state meet performance between the two jumpers and feels Pitts will be up for the task.
“If Dakota jumps through the roof, you just tip your hat to her and say nice job,” he said. “We’ll worry about how high K.K. can jump and whatever it is we’ll congratulate the young lady from La Salle whether she’s in front of us or behind us. That’s what rivalries are about.”