This was supposed the year that
Holy Names (Oakland, Calif.)
junior Sasha Wallace gracefully took the baton from St. Mary's (Berkeley)
senior Trinity Wilson
and hurdled into next season to prepare for a state championship run.
Instead, Wallace had to grab it from her injured East Oakland Youth Development Center Track Club teammate and sprinted to stardom a year early.
Wilson, the 2011 California state champion and nation’s top 100-meter hurdler, broke the big toe on her left foot, battled to come back and never did. Wallace, meanwhile, blossomed into the nation’s best in not just one event, but two, while taking state titles in the short hurdles and triple jump.
With Wilson now apparently 100 percent, the two friends and club teammates from Oakland go head-to-head in this weekend’s USATF Junior Nationals
at Indiana University. Both will have to deal with incoming University of Texas standout Morgan Snow.
Wilson, who just graduated from St. Mary’s and is headed to UCLA, won the USA Junior Outdoor championships last year in 13.15 seconds. She’s strong and powerful and been a national age group champion since she was 13. Her senior year consisted of a single trials race at the Stanford Invitational where she ran 13.41 seconds. That was good enough for the national lead most of the season.
But Wilson re-injured her toe – she first hurt it during the indoor season – and never recovered 100 percent.
“It’s been hard for Trinity for sure,” EOYDC.coach Curtis Taylor said. “She’s been down at times. But it helped that Sasha ended up winning. It was better that one of her own took her spot than someone else. She had a hand in pushing Sasha to that point.”
Wallace, who will be a senior in the fall, won the state meet earlier this month in a national leading mark of 13.31. She’s also won state and is the national outdoor leader in the triple jump at 42-4.
“It’s a situation between the mentor and mentee where the mentor got hurt and the mentee stepped up,” Taylor said. “There’s a natural progression and pecking order in this sport and the one this year was supposed to be that Trinity wins state for a second year in a row, Sasha takes second and wins it next year.
“But circumstances caused it not to quite happen that way and it’s somewhat uncomfortable as a coach. You’re not cheering for one or another. I think Trinity has new found respect for Sasha and was very happy it was she who replaced her as champion. Sasha grew up quickly and emerged. Both will learn and grow from the experience.“
The top two in each event will advance to the Junior World Games in Barcelona, Spain.
“In an ideal world, they’ll finish one-two and both go,” Taylor said. “But of course, there are other top girls who are more than capable of advancing.”
While Wilson is used to racing against college and international competition, this will essentially be Wallace’s coming out party. She’s riding a wave of almost perfect races in her high school season in the hurdles. Her triple jump season was a model of consistency.
She earned the Contra Costa Times’ Female Athlete of the Year award last week and it wouldn’t be surprising if Gatorade presents her with a postseason award or two. Earning top marks nationally in two technically challenging events is a remarkable accomplishment.
“Her confidence is at an all-time high right now,” Taylor said. “She’s so close to an emotional peak. This meet is a little different. There’s not a lot of media coverage. The hometown crowd won’t be there. It will be interesting to see how she deals with it.”
Wallace has dealt with her sudden rise in stardom completely poised and utterly graceful. She’s been humble in victory and always looking forward. She’s wished nothing but health and good fortune for Wilson and been grateful for all her support from Taylor and all the competitors, past and present at EOYDC.
The alumni under Taylor has been impressive and long and include previous state champions Ashton and Julian Purvis, Ke'Nyia Richardson and of course Wilson, to name a few.
It’s been more than helpful too that her father Joaquin Wallace is a women’s college basketball coach at San Francisco State. He has warned and guided her through all the pitfalls
“I can’t tell you how much support and guidance I’ve received this year, last year and my whole life,” she said. “I feel like I train with greatness and that has helped me so much. I just try to stay focused on the next race, the next event and if I do the right things it will all work out.”
She hasn’t started to narrow down her college choices, but after this season, she’ll likely have the pick of the top litter. She’s well spoken, a superb listener and an excellent student, according to Taylor.
“On top of all that, she’s a great competitor,” Taylor said. “She trains and practices hard. She’s completely coachable. Combine all that with a great athletic ability and she’s just the whole package.”
How that will translate to this weekend will be interesting. Wilson has been the alpha competitor at EOYDC.and Wallace the understudy.
“I just want both of us to run our best,” Wallace said. “That would make me very happy. I know we’ve helped each other and pushed each other. Now hopefully we can both advance to Barcelona.” E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MitchMashMax. Look for three-day coverage from the USATF Junior Nationals by correspondent Kirby Lee.