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Holy Names’ fun-loving junior Sasha Wallace emerged as a national talent in two events in 2012. By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars   Sasha Wallace...

Holy Names’ fun-loving junior Sasha Wallace emerged as a national talent in two events in 2012.

By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars

 

Sasha Wallace took her mark for the 100 meter hurdles final at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on May 26. She then waited as the PA announcer introduced each competitor, which included one or two factoids for each — highlights such as fifth in the section, ninth in the state, and so on. 

When it got to the junior from Holy Names of Oakland, though, the PA announcer made it clear who the favorite was.

Second in NCS, third in the state and seventh in the country in the 100 hurdles.

A pause. Then he continued.

She’s also a triple jumper. First in NCS, first in California, tops in the country.

The laundry list of accolades stirred the crowd, several hundred lodged in the bleachers on a windy day at Edwards Stadium at Cal-Berkeley. If they weren’t already fixing their gaze on Wallace, camped in Lane 4, they were now. 

“It was a long list,” Wallace said of her accomplishments being railed off before the 100 hurdles final. “But it’s happened so fast.”

Then 14.18 seconds later, Wallace captured first place in the event. 

The NCS Meet of Champions would serve as just a prelude to the CIF State Championships where she won gold medals in the triple jump and 100 hurdles, and continued her ascent as one of the best track and field athletes in the US.


* * *

When one is blessed with athletic abilities and physical traits like Wallace, it comes as no shock that she grew up in a family of athletes. 

Her father, Joaquin, played baseball at San Francisco State and is currently the women’s basketball coach for the Gators. Her older sister, Jameelah, was a track standout winning the 400 meter dash at the Junior Olympics while competing for St. Elizabeth in her high school days.

“It was something I had to look up to,” Wallace said of Jameelah’s Junior Olympics victory.

Wallace began track and field in the seventh grade competing for a club team in Oakland. While hurdling and running the 400, she gravitated to the triple jump.

“It’s funny because I never tried long jump before, ever,” said Wallace. “I went straight to triple jump.”

If that admission seems odd, that’s because it is, especially when considering triple jump typically takes a back seat to more popular field events like the long jump and high jump. 

The triple jump is awkward in its presentation and even more uncompromising on the body. As an athlete continues to fill in to her body, she has to continue to learn and relearn the techniques and nuances of the event. “The more you get older, the more different the boards you need to jump from and the farther away the board is from the pit,” Wallace said. “The most things I probably focused on were getting my phases to get bigger and stretch them out.

“But where I am now, thinking, looking back, I’m really different than how I was in seventh grade. I actually know what I’m doing. I know how to break the jumping down to make it slower. In seventh grade I just wanted to get in the pit as fast as I could to see how far I jumped, which didn’t help at all.”


* * *

Wallace entered her freshman year at Holy Names playing basketball along with track and field. She trained at East Oakland Youth Development Center under the tutelage of Laney College coach Curtis Taylor. 

At EOYDC, Wallace horsed around and socialized with teammates, which didn’t sit well with fellow teammate Trinity Wilson.

“She’s always playful and joking around and talking,” said Wilson, the defending state and world youth 100 hurdles champion who missed the postseason due to a toe injury. “She practices and performs well. I just don’t know how. I can’t be around her when I’m practicing.”

Despite the lack of focus, Wallace was third at the World Youth Championships Trials last summer in South Carolina at 40 feet, 8.75 inches. A fantastic finish, but only the Top 2 qualified to compete in France. Wallace left the trials with a bitter taste lingering.

“At that point she was like I wanna go (to Worlds next year),” Taylor said of Wallace. “I told her you got to (train) early before the season, in September.”

Wallace got the message loud and clear. 

Last fall, she quit hoops to focus full time on track and field. She goofed off less in practice and worked to perfect her stride and technique. The result is nothing short of staggering. 

Her personal record currently sits at 42 feet, 4.75 inches. According to dyestat.com, only two other girls in the nation can top 42 feet.

The day before she won the 100 meter hurdles at the NCS Meet of Champions, Wallace won the triple jump with a distance of 42 feet, 3.25 inches – more than five feet ahead of second place. Each runner gets three attempts, but Wallace declined her third try, opting instead to save her legs for the following day and the CIF state championships June 1-2 in Clovis.

Preparing for CIF means preparing for the triple jump and the 100 hurdles, the latter Wallace could win since Wilson, last year’s junior world champion, won’t be participating. Still, Wallace owes a good portion of her success to Wilson.

“I always like running against people that’ll push me,” Wallace said. “Only because my time might get lower or my jump might get farther. I just like the competition. Even if I don’t win in some cases, I just like running against heavier competition. It brings out the best.”

She definitely got that at the state meet. 

Wallace put it all together in Clovis with the 100 hurdles, not only winning, but setting the national high school mark this season with a wind-legal time of 13.33. An hour or so later, she won the triple jump with a modest 41 feet, 5 3/4 inches.

“I didn’t think I’d go that fast but I’ve been training to PR,” Wallace said of her blazing 100 hurdles time. “I go into every race trying to be the winner in whatever I do. Last season, it didn’t happen a lot of the time.”


* * *

To think, all of this almost went away before it really even started. 

It was May 19, the day of the NCS Bay Shore Athletic League championships, and Wallace foot fouled on her first two attempts. If she foot fouled on the third, she would be eliminated from the rest of postseason competition, and her triple jumping reign would come to a screeching, premature halt.

“It’s something that you don’t want to freak about, because then you’ll end up being a nervous wreck,” Wallace said. “In that type of situation you just want to be more calm than anything. So I just had to make the transition … however many feet, and just go off the pile and my jump goes from there.”

She played it safe on her third try, taking off well behind the line and still ended up with a distance of 41 feet, easily winning the championship.

What’s the end goal? That’s a question that not even Wallace can answer. She is extremely talented. She’s blessed with physical traits and athletic ability. The scary thing is she’s only scratching the surface. Taylor believes there’s no question she can make the Olympics.

“I think she’s operating on 60 percent of her talent right now,” Taylor said. “If she sticks to it with her passion and gets some good coaching talent that learns how to buckle down with her, she can be in the Olympics.”

As flattering as that sounds, Wallace just takes all the accolades and glory in stride. She truly lives in the moment.

“I’m the type of person that breaks things up in steps,” Wallace said. “My goal is, of course, make it to state next year. And my goal from there is to get a full scholarship. From there I can decide whether or not I wanna go for the Olympics. I don’t wanna look as what’s the biggest goal, because I have smaller goals that will lead up to my biggest.”


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