She made her first big high school breakthrough during the fall.
Fast forward to several months later and Cuyahoga Falls junior distance standout Kayla Huffman is trying to end a stellar season with a bang.
She took a crucial first step toward that goal May 19.
Kayla Huffman advanced to the Division I regional track and field competition after her performance at the Nordonia Division I district meet, which concluded May 19 at Boliantz Stadium in Macedonia.
Kayla Huffman placed third with a time of 2 minutes, 18.73 seconds in the 800-meter race.
The top four athletes in each event and top four relays teams qualified for the regional competition, which was scheduled to take place May 24 and 26 at Austintown-Fitch High School. Results were not available at press time.
If Kayla Huffman, who qualified for the Division I state cross country meet during the fall, can crack the top four again, she will qualify for the state competition, which is set to take place June 2 and 3 at The Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
"Kayla ran a great race," Lady Black Tigers head coach Dan Scourfield said. "She did exactly what she had to do. She led through 500 meters and then hung on at the end. It was her fastest time by three seconds."
Scourfield said her regional-qualifying pupil is seeded seventh heading into the regional competition.
"This was a very good district," he said. "I think the Austintown regional is the toughest of the four.
"I think she has another gear. She has a legitimate chance to get through. She's a competitor. I think there will be a little bit of disappointment if she doesn't make it."
In the team standings, Falls placed ninth out of 13 teams with 23 points.
Nordonia won the 13-team competition with 117 points and Twinsburg (93) and Hudson (82) finished second and third, respectively.
Junior Jackie Shields had a heartbreaking end to her season.
Shields, who had been out for more than four weeks due to a leg injury, was just a quarter of an inch from advancing. She placed fifth with a leap of 16 feet, 7.25 inches.
"Jackie was the story of the meet," Scourfield said. "She had been in a boot for four and a half weeks and she didn't do much two weeks prior to that.
"She took the boot off [May 14] and had four days of light practice. The girl from Nordonia beat her on her last jump."
Scourfield was pleasantly surprised to see Shields come back so gracefully after being out of action for awhile.
"A lot of kids in a boot would just wait to come back next year," Scourfield said. "She wanted to compete so badly. She was disappointed.
"She's the kind of kid I need on my track team. She is someone who is focused, intense and competitive. She wants to give her best all the time."
Junior De'Vine Shelton was less than a second away from advancing in the 300 hurdles. She placed sixth with a time of 48.87 seconds.
"De'Vine did not have her best finals' race," Scourfield said. "It wasn't for lack of effort. It just wasn't meant to be. She ran really well throughout the season."
Also finishing sixth were Rachel LaFlame, who had a throw of 34-1 in the shot put and the 3,200 relay team of freshman Chelsea Huffman, Kayla Huffman, freshman Zoe King and senior Emily Zimmerman (10:25.38).
The 400 relay team of sophomore Kenna Shook, Shelton, junior Sarah Wyatt and freshman Katlyn Long finished seventh in 52.9 seconds.
Wyatt finished eighth in the 100 hurdles in 17.17 seconds.
"Sarah making the finals was kind of a long shot," Scourfield said. "She ran a really good semifinal. She has gotten better and better the last four weeks."
Also placing eighth was the 1,600 relay team of junior Madi Davis, Zimmerman, sophomore Anna Johnston and Kayla Huffman (4:28.52).
Davis just missed placing in the high jump. She finished in a three-way tie for ninth with a leap of 4 feet, 8 inches.
Sophomore Hannah Carlton also took ninth in the pole vault with a vault of 7 feet and Zimmerman placed 10th in the 3,200 (12:15.21).
"Emily gave everything she had for four years," Scourfield said. "I told her I don't think I could ever replace what she gave us.
"This was a kid who has grown up so much in four years. She went from hardly saying a word to anyone to being a vocal leader. It's bittersweet to see her career come to an end. I'll be lucky to get another one like her."
While Zimmerman will be sorely missed, most of the Lady Black Tigers are expected to be back in the mix next year.
"We have an exciting eighth-grade class coming in," Scourfield said. "I told the girls I haven't really been disappointed at districts. They always step up and run. They never back down."