FORT WALTON BEACH — Teron Pitts-Bryant was the first to speak at Fort Walton Beach’s signing day Thursday.

Among other things, the Viking track athlete made a special point to thank his family, to thank his mother, who had raised him as a single parent, and his grandparents, who had stepped in to fill the role an absent father would not. His words brought Lissette Fields, the Vikings’ track coach to the verge of tears.

When John Spolski, Fort Walton Beach’s principal, took the stage in the Vikings’ auditorium, he could only marvel at the weight behind Pitts-Bryant’s words.

“It is just so refreshing to hear them talk about their faith, their family and their coaches," Spolski said. “This truly is a family business, and I think it’s evident when we have ceremonies like this.”

The theme of family persisted as each of the four athletes — all track and field or cross-country participants, who had missed the Vikings’ official signing day festivities to compete at regionals — were honored Thursday.

Pitts-Bryant will attend MidAmerican Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas, come fall, as will Kyaira Burgess, who convinced the coaches at MNU to give Pitts-Bryant a look when they reached out to her and helped to keep part of her family together. Pitts-Bryant placed third in the boys 300-meter hurdles at the Region 1-3A track meet in April. Burgess placed seventh in the girls 300-meter hurdles.

Fields said Burgess was the first person to reach out and wish her a happy Mother’s Day this past weekend.

Maia Rivera, who will attend West Alabama in Livingston, Alabama, honored her father when it was her turn to speak, calling him her “biggest cheerleader and motivator.” She placed 11th in the girls 800-meter run at the District 2-3A in April.

Rounding out the group, Jeremiah Tyler will run for Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Fields said Tyler’s teammates call him Rev, short for Reverend, because he’s always leading the team in prayer. In a way, Fields said, Tyler has acted as the head of the track team’s family. He's also a member of the the Vikings' 4x100-meter relay team that owns the school record.


Teron Pitts Bryan, MidAmerica Nazarene University

What’s going through your mind today?

It’s really exciting. It’s just a good opportunity and an experience not every high school student experiences. It’s very exciting.

Why MNU?

Well, at first I was planning on going into the military actually, but some door opened up. I talked to the coach recently and he offered me a pretty good deal, a good financial benefit for my family to pitch in some money and help me out with a scholarship.

How long ago did this development happen?

Recently. I swear I feel like I woke up and it happened cause it happened like last week he gave me the offer.

What are you most looking forward to about getting to campus in the fall?

Basically just meeting the coach, meeting my new classmates, trying to fit in and get comfortable with the school.

In your speech, you said Kyaira helped you get this opportunity?

Well, the coach contacted her first and the coach said he was looking and did she have any other good athletes at the school, so she told him about me and that’s how we got connected to the coach.

Kyaira Burgess, MidAmerica Nazarene University

What’s going through your mind today?

I’m just excited to continue track at the college level and compete.

Was it overwhelming at all?

I was nervous cause I don’t like public speaking, but I enjoyed it.

Why MNU?

Their hurdle coach reached out, and he just seemed like he was great coach and hurdles are my favorite thing to do in track. I’m a church person, and it’s a Christian university, so I liked that I could still be with God and connect with God even if I run track and don’t have to be overwhelmed with it.

You get to take Teron with you to school. How exciting is it to be able to have him go with you?

It’s awesome. You don’t have to be by yourself as a freshman in a whole different state. It’s good to have someone with you.

Maia Rivera, University of West Alabama

What’s going through your mind today?

I’m really just blessed that I’m actually able to do this. This has always been a dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to go to college. With my background and my dad, he was military, and coming from two older siblings, it was kinda hard to know it just might not happen. The fact that today I can finally make my dream come true and go to college and major in English and do what I want to do, it’s right now unbelievable, but I’m pretty sure it’ll set in.

What has the family aspect of Fort Walton Beach meant to you?

The family aspect at Fort Walton Beach means there’s absolutely no judgment in this school. This school, we accept everyone and we are a very welcoming school. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone seems to have their own cliques but at the same time we all come together whenever we need to. As for my family, I owe everything to them and I just love that they love me unconditionally, and you can just tell that about both the school and my family.

Why West Alabama?

I did not have a care of where I was going to go. I just wanted to go to a college. I was interested in Southern Miss for a little bit and when I went there it wasn’t like a full "This is where I want to be." When I went to West Alabama and I visited that college, that just felt like home. It’s rural area and it feels exactly like here. Whenever I met the teammates, that’s really what sold me. They were so energetic and so happy, and they all just accepted me immediately.

Jeremiah Tyler, Spring Hill College

What’s going through your mind today?

It’s very exciting. I’m very blessed to be going on to the next level, competing at Division II at Spring Hill. I’m actually going to be competing with my sister Tykeyra Beacham, who goes to Niceville, so it’ll be a great journey.

Why Spring Hill?

It was more the atmosphere. It was a small college and there was already a lot of sprinters there that was the same type of speed as me. I wanted to grow with them. The atmosphere of the whole small college, being like high school, me being able to talk to my professors and the fact that me and my sister will be able to go there.

What are you most looking forward to about getting to campus in the fall?

I’m just ready to get in my books, get ready to study then when track season comes I’m able to come and compete and show them that I’m a Division II-level athlete.

What has the family aspect of Fort Walton Beach meant to you?

It’s fun. As a captain, I treat everybody as my kids. Sometimes I have to coach, sometimes I have to lead the stretches. I put kids under my wing and just help them grow as an athlete and a child. Some kids on our team, they’re not with their dads or they’re not with their parents. When they’re at track, they feel a guidance from me.

That’s a lot of responsibility to take on at your age. Why do you feel that’s something you need to do for others?

I just feel called, I guess. More obligated. Some kids, they haven’t been taught the things I’ve been taught. As a captain, I just feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s my job. That’s my opportunity.