Caitlyn Bobb might seem like a typical 16-year-old.
The Harford Tech rising junior gets excellent grades, loves being around her family and friends, plays a handful of sports and is working on getting a summer job.
But when Bobb is running track, ordinary becomes extraordinary in a flash.
Getting a late start to the sport by design — she didn’t run competitively until the outdoor season in her freshman year — Bobb has been nothing but sensational.
She won state titles in the 200 and 400 meters and on two relay teams that freshman season; the 300 and 500 and two more relays in her sophomore indoor season; and equaled her four-title freshman haul this past spring. That’s 12 state titles in three track seasons as an underclassman.
“It’s definitely a surprise, especially since others have been running since they were 6, 7, 8, and doing [Amateur Athletic Union], and this is only my second year running in high school,” she said. “At first, I didn’t know how big it was, the magnitude of it all, but now I’m starting to get an idea.”
Bobb’s parents, David and Dawnette, had a good idea their eldest daughter might be special on the track.
David was a five-time All-American track star at UMBC, where he is entering his 22nd year as head women’s track coach and his 19th year as head men’s coach. Dawnette represented her native Bermuda in the 100 at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
When the family lived in Bermuda for three years during Bobb’s early grade school days, she ran a few races that opened her parents’ eyes.
“We saw her run and we were like: ‘Wow, what is this?’ You could see she didn’t look like a kid that was running, she looked like she knew what she was doing,” Dawnette said.
Bobb didn’t run another race until her freshman season at Harford Tech. Instead, she swam, played volleyball and basketball, went rollerskating, ate Chick-fil-A on weekends and hung out with friends.
“The big thing is we let her be a kid,” David said. “Sometimes parents get overwhelmed and they want to get that instant gratification.
"But the good thing is myself and my wife aren’t living vicariously through our daughter because we experienced what she’s experiencing now, so it’s helping her navigate and helping her deal with things. We’re making sure she’s a good teammate and making sure she stays humble. And she’s a regular typical 16-year-old kid.”
The late introduction to track has her fueled and excited. She’s also disciplined and willing to make sacrifices to enjoy continued success.
No more Chick-fil-A every weekend is tough, but she knows it’s necessary.
“It’s just a lot of change and I definitely can’t do everything I used to do, but I’m loving it because there’s always something you have to give to get,” Bobb said.
Having her parents’ unique knowledge and experience is invaluable. They continually reinforce the importance of rest, nutrition, race strategies, discipline, being a good teammate and staying humble.
“They’ve guided me, given me their wisdom and their input, especially since they’ve experienced a lot of things I’m going through. So they give me a heads up and I have a one-up on everybody,” Bobb said.
At the prestigious New Balance Nationals Outdoor in Greensboro, N.C., on June 16, she had personal bests in the 200 (23.69 seconds for second place) and 400 (52.79 for fourth) to show she’s poised on the big stage.
Harford Tech coach Murray Davis, who has more than 35 years of experience at the high school and college levels, has seen from Bobb all the needed ingredients to reach her vast potential. He’s been impressed with her natural talent, discipline, mental toughness and willingness to be coached.
“Once in a while you run across a kid like that,” he said. “And as far as coaching her, the one thing I try to do is just let her play to her talent. She’s just starting to scratch the surface.”
A dual citizen of the U.S. and Bermuda, Bobb has set a goal of matching her mother in making the Olympics.
Dawnette sees similarities between herself and her daughter on the track, though she’s already conceded Caitlyn is ahead of her pace.
“Oh no, she’s better,” Dawnette said. “I’m more overtly aggressive and she’s calmer. She’s able to mask her aggressiveness. It took me a while to kind of get it. She’s better than I ever was, and I told her that, too.”
Bobb knows the hard work that lies ahead. She knows her success has to make her work that much harder with others striving to catch her. She feels good when she makes her parents proud, saying, “I feel like I’m carrying a legacy,” with her mom laughing in the background.