Often times when high school athletic standouts are navigating the challenging waters of choosing where to further their athletic and academic careers, the proper balance of strong academic and athletic programs is often sought.
Mount Desert Island senior running star Tia Tardy was certainly seeking such a challenge during that process, and she’ll get both.
Tardy, who became the first girl in the nearly four-decade history of the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League to break the elusive five-minute barrier in the mile and eclipsing a record that Brewer’s Heather Clark had held in that distance for more than a decade, announced Wednesday she will continue her track and field career at Bucknell University.
Tardy revealed her signing with the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, institution, a member of the Patriot League, on Twitter on Wednesday.
Upon a recent visit to the campus, she “just kind of fell in love with it all.”
“The campus is in a world that’s a lot like I’m used to. I fell in love with the team, and really got to know them,” she said.
Tardy said she was recruited for track and field but she will also plan on running cross-country.
After visiting Bucknell, Tardy visited the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and while she enjoyed the Penn campus, she ultimately chose the small-town vibe that Bucknell has to offer.
“I do much better at a smaller campus that doesn’t have as many distractions,” she said. “What I realized was that Bucknell was going to be the place that I would fit in the best at and have the most success at.”
Tardy has run for Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Orono and MDI during her four-year high school career, spending her freshman and sophomore campaigns at Mattanawcook before transferring to Orono as a junior, and subsequently heading to MDI for her senior year.
But no matter which uniform she has worn, Tardy has posted some very fast times.
In last winter’s Eastern Maine Indoor Track League championships, she shattered Clark’s 13-year-old mile record by nearly 10 seconds, posting an impressive time of 4 minutes, 55.23 seconds.
Tardy would follow those performances up with a victory in the mile in the Emerging Elite competition at the New Balance Indoor National championships in New York City, clocking a 4:55.57.
Tardy believes she can lower that standard this winter.
“In the mile, [I’m looking for a] 4:50 or better and building off of that for outdoor,” she said, also noting that she’d like to be about 2:10 or faster in the 800.
She would lead Orono to conference and state team championships last winter, and a state outdoor title while setting a Class C record in the 800 (2:13.03).
Tardy is looking to major in biology at Bucknell, and she liked that the school had a strong music program.
Tardy is auditioning for MDI’s Show Choir and plans on participating in chorus during the second semester.
“I’m also trying to figure out a way to also keep that music thing in,” she said.
Tardy’s winning ways continued on the cross-country trails at MDI this fall, as her individual wins at the Penobscot Valley Conference and Class B North races helped lead the Trojans to team victories in each of those meets.
Tardy also finished in 21st place at the New England championships last weekend, earning her All-New England honors.
That would cap off the cross-country season for Tardy, who is using the next couple of weeks to rest up for the start of indoor track, which kicks off at the end of this month.
She also is relieved to have signed with Bucknell and can now focus on the remainder of her senior year.
“It’s definitely taken a lot off my shoulders, and now I can focus on academics and my running and music,” she said.
Tardy said she plans on continuing to focus on middle-distance events such as the 400, 800 and the mile in college.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at @rmclaughlin23.