Rio Hondo girls track & field coach Danette Atkinson has been at Rio Hondo for 13 years, and she has never had any athlete qualify for the state track & field meet.
When junior Jazaline Ayala punched her ticket to state in the 800-meter run at the Region IV-4A meet, she ended a drought that Atkinson said dates back to the early 2000s.
Ayala finished her race in 2 minutes, 27.76 seconds and will attempt to top that when she heads to Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus for the Class 4A state meet.
The Valley Morning Star caught up with Ayala as she prepares for her state debut.
Q: What was the feeling like to make it to state for the first time?
Ayala: I was in shock, and I couldn’t believe that I made it. Like, it wasn’t real until I saw my parents and my brother cheering up and down. I was very happy.
Q: When and why did you decide you wanted to take up track & field?
Ayala: I started to do track after my dad (Placido Ayala) would talk about him and my brother, and how it was always fun for them. They made new friends and stuff, so I wanted to try it out. I did and I liked it. It’s my favorite sport.
Q: You also compete the 400-meter dash and the 1,600-meter run in addition to the 800. What would you say is your favorite event and why?
Ayala: My favorite is the 800 because it’s not too fast or too slow. It’s just my favorite one, and I like to run it.
Q: What’s the hardest part about being a track & field athlete, and how do you feel you approach whatever it is?
Ayala: The hardest thing is to be consistent on your times and performances. Also, just going out there to go run is the hardest thing because not anyone can play that sport.
Q What’s your favorite memory of your track career?
Ayala: My favorite memory was one of the practices when I had. It started pouring really hard and I continued to run. I felt like in Rocky when he runs with his arms in the air.
Q: Do you play any other sports? If so, what are they and does being in track help you when it comes to competing in them?
Ayala: I play basketball and cross country. I think track helps me stay in shape for all my other sports.
Q: On meet days, what does your typical routine look like? Meals, pregame music, superstitions?
Ayala: In the morning my dad always makes me breakfast, like a biscuit. I also always wear my running necklace for every meet. Before the race, I listen to music to pump me up and my warmup is always the same.
Q: Who would you say is one of the toughest athletes you’ve had to compete against and in what event?
Ayala: It would have to be Robbie Espericueta, she made it to state in 2A for the 800.
Q: What meet do you look forward to the most and why?
Ayala: I think it would be the district meet, because every year it’s always the best race I ever have. I always go hard in it.
Q: What’s your favorite movie or show and why?
Ayala: It will have to be Pretty Little Liars. I like the drama, mystery and everything that goes on in there.
Q: What’s your favorite food and why?
Ayala: My favorite food is pasta. I love any pasta I eat that someone makes.
Q: If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Ayala: It will have to be my dad because he’s my favorite person, and he’s always there and always motivates me.