On the Monday morning after the girls track and field state meet, she carried Lindblom's first state team trophy in any sport since 1955 to its current place on the front desk in the West Englewood school's main office.
The hardware she won certainly caught her peers' attention — a little more than Little liked.
"I'm not used to it all," said Little, the Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Athlete of the Month for May. "I'm kind of shy and I'm awkward, and people are treating me like I'm some type of celebrity. I'm like, 'No, I'm not, guys.'"
Wearing a hoodie and a baseball cap pulled down over her forehead, Little felt out of sorts as she spoke. She became sick after traveling to Puerto Rico last weekend to compete for the U.S. in the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational, where she won a 400 hurdles title, and the illness seemed to magnify her shyness.
But awkward is not a word that describes Little on the track as her thin, 5-foot-7 frame glides over hurdles. The margin of victory by which she won some of her state races was stunning, including victories of more than 1 second in the 400 and 300 hurdles finals — a rare double considering the races were 15 minutes apart. (The 400 hurdles race is likely to be her specialty when she picks one of the colleges that have started their pursuits, and she plans to run it on the national circuit this summer.)
The state performance brought a bit of attention to Lindblom during the meet, but the Beverly resident might not have ended up at the school if it had been her choice. A club track athlete since she was a grade-school student, Little wanted to attend a high school with a big track program. Her mother, Tiffany Mayfield, wanted her daughter to receive a good education at the selective enrollment school.
Mom won, but she's done her best to supplement her daughter's training at Lindblom, which has had only a handful of athletes go out for track in Little's three years. Mayfield calls coaches all over Chicago to ask for training tips, and she drives Little to Morgan Park, Richards and Marist high schools to practice on a track, something Lindblom doesn't have.
"I'm not a coach, so I don't know a lot about track and field or what kind of times she should be making it in," Mayfield said. "I reach out to different coaches. … I can honestly say it's the whole city that's helping me and the coaching staff train her."
Little had some of those coaches encourage her to try the four-event feat at state, and she pondered it from the start of the season. She never worried about how it might hurt her chance at a single championship, turning the effort into a showcase of her endurance and the extra gear she finds with 150 meters to go in her longer races.
"When I first started I couldn't even do the 200 without wanting to give up," Little said. "The 200 was like the 400 to me. My legs burned. Now the 200 doesn't bother me, and the 400 isn't as hard as it was a few years ago."
Shamier Little file