Warriors’ Ayala uses 2016 setback as motivation in 2017

SANTA ROSA — It was around this time last year that Santa Rosa’s Alex Ayala’s remembers the devastating feeling of finishing in third place at last season’s regional track meet.

While third place isn’t bad, it was still one spot shy of qualifying for the state tournament in the 300-meter hurdles.

It was a moment both Alex and his father/hurdles coach, Hector, remember all too well.

On the final 100 meters of the race, Alex overtook another opponent to jump into the third spot and on the second-to-last hurdle he passed the second-place runner and was within qualifying range. Then, however, disaster struck.

On the final hurdle, Ayala tripped but still managed to get up and roll past the finish line.

“It was heartbreaking and it was tough because he had worked hard and knew he had a shot at making state,” said Santa Rosa hurdles coach and Alex’s dad Hector Ayala.

However, that was the moment that would drive Alex to work harder for the next 12 months.

Fast-forward to this season and the tables have turned. The junior is no longer an underdog but a state contender as Alex qualified for the state meet after finishing second at regionals with a time of 39.29, which is an improvement from the area meet where he finished in the top spot with a time of 41.72.

“Last season he was on the outside looking in as opposed to this year where he has been one of the leaders and had the second fastest times in the region,” said Hector. “So it’s been a little bit of a role reversal where now he is not chasing anymore, but a leader. I think last year’s result motivated him to finish.”

Alex is set to run in Austin on Saturday afternoon and he’s eager and ready.

“I feel good and it’s a big accomplishment, and a year late because of what happened last year, but it feels good,” said Alex. “Everybody knew what happened last year and all my family and friends were cheering for me to make it this year. I’m a little nervous, but I’m ready.”