Asjah Atkinson has no problems with being a lonely track and field athlete. The St. Anthony sophomore trained with her family and ran unattached during middle school before coming to the small private school in Long Beach with her sister and coach, Ericka Brooks.
Atkinson placed in the CIF State Finals 100 meter hurdles last year, and returned to Buchanan High in Fresno over the weekend as the only St. Anthony athlete competing.
“Yeah it’s lonely, but I did it last year and I’m kind of used to it now,” Atkinson said. “I still need to represent our school. No one believes in our track team, so I have to put us on the map. Last year it was it was like, ‘Oh, I made it to the finals? Good, I don’t care what place I get’ but this year I expect better of myself.”
On Saturday, Atkinson won two medals by posting a pair of personal best performances. She finished sixth in the long jump by matching her personal best of 19’ 4.50” and took third in the 100 meter hurdles with a 13.84, which is the No. 4 time in California this year.
“She was a little shrimp last year,” St. Anthony coach, and Asjah’s sister, Ericka Brooks said. “When she lined up for the finals she was the tiniest one. She was like ‘Oh my God, I’m just happy to be here’ but this year it’s been like ‘Ok, I’ve earned my spot, and I deserve to be here just like everyone else, and now what can I do while I’m here.’ She’s a lot more confident this year.”
Atkinson finished her regular season by winning Camino League meet gold in the long jump, 4×100 relay, 100m hurdles and 4×400 relay. She and six other Saints represented their school at the CIF Southern Section finals where they placed third overall in Division 4. Atkinson brought home the only two gold medals with a top time in the 100 hurdles (14.18) and a long jump of 18” 8.25’.
“Last year, she was the only one to make CIF, and this year, more girls reached that level,” Brooks said. “I think (Asjah) is an influence on the other kids became they’re like, ‘Well I want to be here, get interviewed and be on the front of The562.org’ and now she’s bringing them with her. That’s what’s fun about being at a small school, she can be a spokesperson and get everyone else on the wagon.”
Last week at the CIF Masters meet, Atkinson won the 100 hurdles (14.08) to beat Wilson’s Rachel Glenn, and easily qualified for CIF State with a long jump over 19 feet.
Atkinson followed that up with a near perfect start to her CIF State weekend by performing well at prelims on Friday. She ran a personal best 13.93 in the 100m hurdles, and in long jump she was third with another jump of 19’ 2.5”. Her PR for the year is 19” 4.5” which she did in March at the California relays. That is a top 10 jump in CA this year.
“I came in with a lot more confidence this year than I did last year because I was the only freshman,” Atkinson said of returning to CIF State. “But this year I know where I am, and I know my place so this felt really good.”
Atkinson said her sister and coach is her role model, and one of the biggest reasons she’s improving so quickly.
“I’m in better shape because I worked a lot harder, and had a lot more hurdle practices,” Atkinson said. “Last year, I’d practice (hurdles) once every two weeks. This year, it’s been twice a week.”
“I’ve been coaching her since she was 5,” Brooks said. “I know the things that work for her. We usually start of (training) kind of slow. We don’t do a lot of sprinting in the beginning, and then when it gets to this point in the season we just go hard, and then she’s ready for it. She’s always up for the challenge.”
“At the beginning of this year she wasn’t really in the scene with a lot of these hurdlers when they first started running,” Brooks added. “We told her to trust the process, it’s okay, and she’s PRed in the last three meets, so its obviously worked.”
After CIF State prelims we talked to Atkinson about a few of her favorite things off of the track…
Question: What is your favorite sport besides track and field?
Answer: I like football. It’s just so fun to watch and so many different things can happen.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Mac and cheese, like the one that’s baked in the oven.
Q: What is your least favorite food?
A: Asparagus. It tastes so bad and it’s so slimy.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: No, I don’t have one. I’m so indecisive on stuff like that.
Q: How about TV show?
A: Star. It got canceled though, so I’m kind of sad.
Q: Who is your favorite musician?
Q: Have you ever seen her in concert?
A: No, but my sister has so I’m kind of jealous.
Q: What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
A: Shawn Mendes.
Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
A: Math. I like algebra and logistics.
Q: If you had to live on a deserted island with one teammate, who would you choose?
A: Jaena Bell. Even though she’s all over the place, she’s the most level headed out of all of us and she’ll make good decisions.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Hopefully a professional athlete.
Q: That quickly?!
A: Yes. I have a lot of faith in myself.