Rylee Lydon sensed that Texas A&M was where she was meant to be when she prepared to return home from her official visit a few weeks ago.
“It was one of the few places I felt upset when I was leaving there,” Lydon said. “That was a telltale sign that this was a good place for me.”
The two-time Prairie Ridge track and field state champion, who became a national heptathlon champion this summer, made it official Saturday what she had felt in her heart since coming home from College Station.
Lydon announced on Twitter that she had committed to Texas A&M, a Southeastern Conference and NCAA track and field power. Aggies coach Pat Henry offered Lydon an almost full scholarship for her to join A&M. Lydon said the rest of her school costs will be covered by an academic scholarship.
Lydon will be a heptathlete for the Aggies.
“When I first visited there, despite how cliché it sounds, you do kind of get that gut feeling when you find that school you want to be at,” she said. “I instantly fell in love with the school and their whole legacy. I felt instantly welcomed by the whole team and coaching staff.
“Even my event-specific coach (Mario Sategna), and our first phone call was a while ago, he instantly had faith in me. He said we’re going to make it to nationals, we’re going to surpass 6,000 points. He has amazing accolades and has coached many Olympians and gold medalists. He truly believed in me despite the multis being so new to me. I truly felt wanted there, which was huge for me.”
Lydon also had visited Notre Dame and considered Nebraska and North Carolina as two other top contenders. But after visiting A&M, she decided not to visit those two. She knew where she wanted to be.
“I know she’s been on quite a few college visits,” Wolves coach Sarah Long said. “I kind of had a feeling when she posted on Twitter about (an offer from) Texas A&M. It seemed like that would fit her pretty well.
“I wasn’t totally surprised to see that (she committed). I’m really excited for her. That school turns out a lot of professional track athletes. She’s in the right place.”
Lydon won the Class 3A 400 title and was high jump runner-up at the 2021 IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet. Last season, she won the high jump and was seventh in the 400.
Over the summer, she began competing in the heptathlon. She won the women’s 17-18 division at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships in Sacramento, Calif. in August. Lydon trailed by 62 points going into the final event, the 800 meters, and won by enough of a margin to win the title with 4,677 points, 34 more than the next competitor.
“(The heptathlon) was so fun. I definitely don’t get bored, constant movement,” Lydon said. “At the meets, there’s very limited time of rest in between. I like that fast pace and learning all the new events.”
Lydon’s versatility make her a natural for the seven-event competition. She is one of the area’s top sprinters and jumpers and ran cross country as a freshman.
“Her athleticism, in general, sets her apart,” Long said. “She has the humility and maturity that you don’t see from a lot of other high school athletes. That’s really impressive. She’s very level-headed. She’s going to do really well in whatever she decides to do beyond PR.
“She’s an incredible human. She’s going to go on and do really big things. I just know it. She’s smart as a whip. And she’s a great athlete. She’s super-humble and a very kind person. She’s going places. I’m really, really excited for her.”
Lydon has long been on NCAA Division I schools’ radar, but the attention after becoming a national champion even took her a bit by surprise.
“If you would have told me I’d be in this position, even two months ago, I would have thought you were insane,” she said. “It’s kind of happened so fast, ever since nationals.
“I’m very proud looking back. Even early in high school, I didn’t hang out with many people. You stay home, go to workouts, mindful about everything like sleep and school, all that stuff. Looking back and seeing everything paid off is very humbling and I’m very proud about that.”