Sac State Track and Field sophomore sprinter makes strong return

LaTrouchka Duke reaches new heights in comeback after COVID-19 pandemic.


Dominique Williams

Sacramento State Sophomore sprinter LaTrouchka Duke poses at Hornet Stadium track on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Duke has recently placed second in the 60 meter Big Sky championship finale.

Carina Arroyo

Sacramento State sophomore sprinter LaTrouchka Duke returned to the track for her first indoor season this fall after having recent success last spring in her freshman outdoor season.

She set career-best records at The Big Sky Championships in May 2021, winning second place in both of her events.

Duke’s reign of success started in her first season of indoor racing during the fall.  She tied the second fastest 60m mark in Sac State history and earned a berth for the Big Sky Indoor championship final after running a 7.53. 

Growing up in Spokane, Washington, Duke said she recognized her passion for racing at a young age and attributes her motivation to her mother, who also excelled at the sport. 

Duke said she practiced high knees while her mother played music by Beethoven and Mozart. 

She said her family, friends, and support system is a crucial part of having fun on and off the track. Her motivation to keep the spirit while racing lies within her community, she said.

“If you take yourself out of it and you put more of what you can pour into other people, that’s what makes it fun for me,” Duke said. 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Duke didn’t compete for the entirety of the season due to track meet cancellations, which she said hindered her access to growth in her achievements. 

Overcoming the loss of her senior year of high school was tough as she was not given the chance to break her personal record, Duke said.

While she was restricted to outdoor during the 2021 season due to the spread of COVID-19, Duke said it helped her gain a new perspective on what being a leader for her team meant.

“It was hard, but as a captain, I couldn’t really show that, so I needed to be this figure for my team that’s like, ‘You know what? We’re gonna be okay,’” Duke said. “Because if the captain’s doubting, then I felt like everyone would start to fall apart mentally there.” 

Through this resilience, Duke said she was able to not only help herself grow, but to motivate her team as well. This perseverance allowed the runner to lead with positive energy for her team and for others. 

One of Duke’s teammates, freshman sprinter Brionna Gray said Duke’s leadership ability on the track was effective. 

“She is very encouraging to teammates during mentally and physically tough practices,” Gray said. “She does very well at speaking positivity into people, especially while being under the same circumstances.”

With this in mind, Duke said she feels confident returning this season with the addition of pre-season training that the pandemic restricted in 2021 and aims to “take every record.” 

LaTrouchka Duke warms up for practice m Thursday, April 21, 2022, at Hornet Stadium. Duke said she aims to “take every record” this season. (Dominique Williams)

“The sky is the limit for LaTrouchka,” director of track and field and cross country Kenny McDaniel said.

“If she gets a good start and she shows up highly motivated, you never know what she’s going to do,” McDaniel said.  “When she loses, immediately after the race, she wants to know what she can do to get better and why she lost. She’s gonna work on that every day the following week to get better. She’s just ferocious.”

While placing second in both the 100 and 200-meter events at the Big Sky outdoor championships at the end of her freshman year, Duke said she realized her true talent for the sport and now finds motivation through aiming higher.

“It definitely felt long overdue, like I had been waiting for this moment for so long, and then once I had got it, I still wasn’t satisfied,” Duke said. “I was like okay, I got second place twice. Next year, we’re gonna win twice. You’re never really satisfied in this sport.”  

The returning sophomore said she looks forward to taking away stronger discipline and a hard work ethic from the end of this season. 

So far, Duke’s hard work and discipline has paid off during the season as she placed second in the 60-meter Big Sky indoor championship final and third in the 200 meter.

Duke will be preparing for the Causeway Classic Dual outdoor meet on April 29 in Davis, California.