Female kickers across the country generally generate attention for two things: Playing football and being female. Akron, Ohio's Alana Gaither, however, is earning serious acclaim for a third reason: She's a truly outstanding kicker, as backed up by a recent field goal believed to be the longest ever made by a girl in a competitive football game, at the high school level or higher.
According to Akron's WKYC.com, Gaither hit a 43-yard field goal just before halftime during her Firestone (Ohio) High School team's 45-6 win over city rival Ellet on Oct. 8. The kick was the final play of the first half and easily sailed through the uprights, with some in attendance estimating the kick would have easily been good from 48 yards, too.
"I was like, 'Coach, I'm feeling good,'" Gaither told Firestone coach Tim Flossie, according to WKYC. "I can do it. I know I can."
The Akron Beacon-Journal reported that John Gillis, the assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, has said that the kick qualifies as a national record for a female high school kicker. Further research has failed to find any evidence of a kick made by a female kicker from farther than 43 yards in college football, which would mean Gaither's record extends beyond just high school football.
The 43-yarder was the first field goal Gaither had hit from beyond 40 yards in a game, though she has reportedly connected on kicks from beyond 50 yards in practice. Having seen that, Gaither's teammates were hardly surprised when she nailed her record-setting kick in a game.
"Before [the kick] it was like, 'You'd better not miss it because you could make history here,'" Gaither's teammate and Ohio State-commitment Tommy Brown told WKYC. "Then she kicked it. I was just like, 'Wow, I knew she could do it.'"
While her kicks from distance are garnering most of the attention, Gaither's accuracy is often touted as her greatest asset. Her coach said that she routinely hits 8-of-10 attempts from beyond 40 yards in practice, and he said he's confident enough in her ability to trust her with an attempt of 50 yards or farther. Through her team's first seven games, Gaither hit 27-of-29 extra points and was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, all from beyond 30 yards.
If the rest of the nation wasn't paying attention to Gaither's exploits, at least a few collegiate coaches were. While the soccer star is considering playing that sport in college, Gaither said she's received more than a few letters recruiting her to play football, too.
"I've gotten a handful of [football recruiting] letters," Gaither told WKYC. "I'm sure that half of those might not even recognize that I'm a girl."
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If they didn't know Gaither's sex before, they probably do now, and her recent success can only make them more interested. To get that kind of collegiate attention is a heck of a compliment when you consider the Firestone senior is a self-taught kicker who only began practicing with footballs after her freshman year.
"I went over there and saw these girls kicking the heck out of the ball," Flossie said. "And she was the youngest one and kicked it the farthest.
"And she was bugging a couple of coaches, like a week later, for a bag of footballs," said Flossie. "And we gave it to her. And she's done it by herself."
While Gaither doesn't need to share the credit for her accomplishment, that's precisely what she did when asked what the kick meant to her.
"If there's anything I want people to get out of this story, it's just how well my team has treated me during this entire experience," Gaither told WKYC. "A lot of them have grown to be my best friend."
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