Hurdling toward the future

Senior Malia Avila is a dedicated hurdler. She practices every day in the sweltering heat, gets nervous on race day and has a varsity jacket covered with patches. Her family attends all her meets, but her sister, Alexia Avila (alumna ‘11), supports her on a different level: she’s the new assistant coach for hurdles.

After Alexia ran track while she was a student at Walnut, Malia joined Free Spirit, a club track, as a sprinter in seventh grade. Two years later, she began running for Walnut in her freshman year.

“When I did club track, it was really different from high school [track]. Club was really individual, but high school was more [team-based],” Malia said. “I like the high school team better because it’s like a little family. The hurdle group at school is a lot smaller and more intimate. I got to know people more, and it’s helped me be more outgoing and less shy. It’s given me a little home.”

In her four years on varsity track, Malia has made it to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State for the 4×100 meter relay and 300 meter hurdles.

“At CIF Masters, I was nervous [because] I didn’t know if I would make it to state. I ran the race and I ended up placing third,” Malia said. “It was a big deal for me because I broke my own record.”

Malia credits her sister, who ran hurdles as a senior, for influencing her to join hurdles her freshman year.

“If she didn’t start [hurdles], I wouldn’t have the idea to try it. I’d make fun of her because I beat all her times when she ran in college,” Malia said.

“I take full credit for her even getting close to my records––”

“Yeah, right,” Malia interjected.

“If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t even be in hurdles or have any records to beat. I did a little summer program with hurdles and that was when she first started doing hurdles. When her freshman year came around, she started liking it,” Alexia finished.

Since running for and graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2015, Alexia has returned to the Walnut track. This time, as the assistant coach for hurdles.

“Now that I’m done, I’m doing other things now, but I’m back coaching. It’s kind of funny because I’m back on the track from a different point of view. We had our first meet and I still felt nervous for all the races like I was running,” Alexia said.

Despite being siblings, the two of them interact differently at home compared to at school. According to Malia, Alexia’s “coach mode” on the track is a lot less forgiving than her “sister mode” at home.

“It’s weird; now that she [is] my coach, I think we will bond over it. She’ll go in coach mode and it’s like, ‘You can’t tell me what to do,’” Malia said.

“She likes to give me sass [on the track], but I shut it down pretty quickly,” Alexia said. “Like yup, you’re my sister, but [that’s] not going to work out here.”

Outside of coaching, Alexia is a registered nurse, working 12-hour night shifts before heading to track practice.

“I’m here and I figured I’d help out while I can. I’m still busy with my other main job, but I can make it work because my schedule as a registered nurse is a little different. Sometimes I have to come out right after work, sleep for a couple of hours and come back to coach,” Alexia said. “I’m like, ‘Malia, I’m doing this for you, you better appreciate it.’”

While the two sisters are working together on the same track, Alexia plans to help Malia as well as the other hurdlers reach the top of their game so they could compete at CIF.

“I want to keep them in the best shape while they’re running and competing, really push them. A lot of them can make it to CIF, and [Malia] wants to make it to state,” Alexia said.

Malia will be attending and running for Concordia University Irvine in the upcoming school year.
By Cherie Chu, Staff writer

Photo by Richard Zhang