It doesn't take a Harvard grad to know that sprinter Gabrielle Scott is fast.
Scott knows it, and she isn't a Harvard grad.
Scott will run track and attend the prestigious Ivy League school starting in the fall, but for now, the Woodbridge High senior will focus on graduating high school and maybe, just maybe, winning a state title in the 400 meters.
She'll have a chance if she continues to improve, and based on her performance last week at the Orange County Track and Field Championships, she's going in the right direction.
At the meet on April 16 at Mission Viejo High, Scott won the 400 meters in a personal-best time of 54.73, the second fastest 400 in county history. She also won the 200 in 24.59. It was her fourth consecutive win in the 400 at the Orange County meet.
"I think all my off-season work prepared me for it," said Scott, 17. "I've been improving my times all through the season, starting with Arcadia (Invitational)."
Scott has set high goals for herself, aiming to run the 400 in a "low 53 or high 52."
"I know it's a big jump," she said. "But I still think I can do it."
She's also improving in the 200, even though she says usually doesn't peak in that race until the latter part of the season. She runs the 4x400 and 4x100 relays for Woodbridge, and has run the 800 this season a couple times.
In fact, she had the fastest 800 time in the state this season for about a week, even though she only uses the 800 to help her build strength and endurance for her primary race, the 400.
Not bad for someone who didn't take up track until the eighth grade.
"It's pretty late compared to a lot of people," Scott said. "I ran in the Irvine Junior Games and I liked watching track meets on TV. I was decent in eighth grade, so I kept going."
Scott also played basketball through seventh grade, stopped playing when she started track but planned to resume playing basketball once she got to high school.
"I found out a lot of girls hurt their knees playing basketball, their ACL," Scott said. "That risk wasn't worth it for me."
It has paid off for Scott, as her athletic talents combined with her academic achievements gave the some high-end options for college. She picked Harvard over Penn, Columbia and UC Berkeley.
The difference maker, she said, was Harvard sprints coach Bryan Fetzer.
"He was essentially the reason I decided to go there … along with the academics of course," said Scott, who said Columbia finished a close second among her choices.
Scott is excited about heading out to school in late August, but she's still got business to take care of out west.
She already has two CIF Southern Section championships to her name, winning CIF Division II as a sophomore and CIF Division III as a junior in the 400. She placed eighth in the state as a sophomore and sixth as a junior in the 400 as well.
Scott knows there are some talented sprinters out there, particularly aware of those at Long Beach Poly and Gardena Serra, but feels she's got as good a chance as any.
"I think I have a pretty good chance to win state," she said.