Q: You really stood out on the track scene this spring. Did you feel like it was your breakout season?

A: Coming out of my eighth grade year I had already thought I was really good. But there was a lot of competition out there that I didn’t realize until I got to [the Class 3 state championships]. I just tried my best with every opportunity.

Q: What was different about spring than winter season?

A: It was my first season of indoor track [at the varsity level], and I didn’t know how to run a lot of the events. I had freshman jitters, And I also played basketball, so I didn’t have a lot of time to practice.

Q: What made you take on basketball and track as a freshman?

A: I had been doing both since sixth grade, and I didn’t really want to stop doing both. … Basketball is really fun, and thought I’d give it a try.

Q: Playing both sports, is that something you want to do in the future?

A: I hope I can; however, I know when I go to college, I have to chose one. So it’s looking like track and field at the moment.

Q: What’s your favorite event and why?

A: I think my favorite event is probably the long jump, just because it’s always come naturally to me. … It’s not really hardcore training, but it’s something I can do over and over again without really getting tired. ..The technique is really hard to master. Everything has to be right. You have to make sure your arms are right and your landing is right.

Q: Heritage won the Class 3 state championship and you were the only athlete on the team to win a state title that day. What was that day like for you?

A: We had planned on winning indoor, but things just didn’t go as planned. But with outdoor, we came prepared. Everybody was encouraging each other, and that helped a lot.

Q: Were you guys surprised by the victory?

A: Well, I kind of thought halfway through that we were ahead of everybody. … I was already excited about having won the long jump. .. By the time it was over, I couldn’t really have been any happier.

Q: Let’s talk about the long jump title. What went well?

A: Going into long jump, I did not do as well in the triple jump as I’d like. So I just had to focus my mind. I had the best jump going in, but I couldn’t take anything for granted. So I just did my best, and I ended up jumping 6 inches farther than I’d ever jumped.

Q: Were you surprised by that jump? Because that’s a big improvement.

A: I was hoping for 18 [feet]. Once I saw one of my teammates [Tya Blake] had jumped 17-6, and that was a big PR for her; I knew I had to do my best, whether that was 18 or 19 [feet].

Q: Do you have future track goals?

A: Yes, I’ve been thinking about that since the end of the season. This summer I really wanted to go to AAU Junior Olympics. But I [didn’t get to do that] this year; and plus, I switched back to basketball mode. Over the summer I go to a lot of basketball camps, so I didn’t have time to go to Saturday [track] meets and still go to basketball camps. … The long jump and triple jump state titles are definitely my goal. And hopefully I do better at nationals and be more of a competitor.

Q: Are you passionate about track?

A: At first I just saw track as running, but it really is a test of yourself. It’s not something you do well if you don’t want to. It’s not something that you just decide to start. You have to be dedicated, passionate and do it as hard as you can.

Q: Any pre- or post-meet rituals?

A: Before a track meet I just listen to music. I like to sit by myself and focus on what I need to do. After a track meet, if I do badly, just be focused and put it in the past. If I do well, I have a little celebration and then know I have to do better going forward.

Q: What are your overall thoughts on your freshman season?

A: I think I had a really good freshman season. I met some of my goals, and others I didn’t meet. I think it’s really important to set goals and to reach for something. Just like in the triple jump or the long jump you have to reach out in the sand, you have to reach out for your goals to accomplish them.

Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.

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Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527. 

Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.

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