Twelve-year-old Tayo Ogunmayin may have been running track for just two years, but she is already gaining national attention. An incoming seventh-grader at Oakland’s Julia Morgan School for Girls, Ogunmayin will be participating in the North American finals of the Track and Field Games this Saturday in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The program invites 500 of the most talented track and field athletes in North America to participate in a national meet and to develop their skills under the tutelage of expert track runners.
Tayo is excited about the chance to participate in the competition and also the chance to make new friends.
“I like to improve myself,” said Tayo. “I like to have that power to meet other people and have fun as well....I am not concerned about what place I get in the competition,” said Tayo, who is participating in the 200-meter event. “I want to break my own record, which is 27.11 seconds.”
Tayo starting running track when she was in fourth grade at Malcolm X Elementary School, later joining the East Bay Track Club.
She practices with the club for an hour several days a week and also trains on a treadmill on her own time. East Bay Track Club coach Ralph Walker promoted her to team captain after seeing her commitment and enthusiasm.
“She is really dedicated and never complains about anything,” said Walker. “She works hard and likes to give back and helps other kids. I think that she is one of the best in her age group in the nation.”
The National Elite Youth Ranking System, a national database that catalogues young track and field athletes, ranks Tayo eighth in the nation for the 100-meter dash in the 11 to 12-year-old age group.
Her mother, Tani, said she was surprised by her daughter’s improvement this year, considering that she had been sidelined by a bone fracture for most of 2008.
“She was off all season,” said Tani. “Most of the year, she began to improve. Then she had two meets in May and July where she did really well. Her 100-meter time improved to 12.58 seconds,” which earned her the eighth-place national ranking.
Tani said that she has been teaching both her children, Tayo and son Tunji, who is also a track runner, by encouraging them to eat well, drink enough water, and get enough rest.
“The whole family are track fans,” said Tani. “Both of our kids are track runners. We all love it. I take Tayo to every practice.”
Tayo says that her stamina has improved over the last few years.
“In the beginning, I would become very tired,” she said. “After many different types of training, my stamina improved.”
Tayo said the 2008 Olympic Games got her very excited about track and inspired her to want to compete in the Olympics. She also credits her family, teammates and coach.
“I made a lot of my friends on the track team,” said Tayo. “A couple of people pushed me farther and made me work harder. I’m really happy that I joined the team.”
For others considering a track and field career, Tayo has some advice.
“Never ever doubt yourself,” she said. “If you tell yourself you can’t do something, you won’t do well. But if you are positive and certain of yourself, you will do the best you ever have.”