Senior Zola Grey runs during track practice at Cordova on March 23. (Photo by Simone DeBerry)

Class of 2022: Senior chases track and field scholarship

The story originally misstated Grey’s 100-meter and 200-meter race times. The times have now been corrected.

Senior Zola Grey sets up her starting blocks, suppressing the looming feeling of anxiousness. She’s been through this many times, but the adrenaline still rages through her bloodstream. “I need a good start to come out strong,” Grey whispers to herself as her ears strain for the starting pistol’s sound.

BANG! The pistol goes off and Grey’s muscles explode with power. She’s nothing but a missile, aiming straight for the finish line.

The end is in sight. Fifty meters, enclosing, then 40, then 30, then 20, “Keep going Zola,” she tells herself. “Don’t give up it’ll all be worth it in the end.” As she crosses the finish line, she sighs in relief, then heads over to congratulate the other runners.

A multi-sport athlete, Grey is pursuing her dream of a track and field college scholarship. Grey began her athletic career at the age of one year when her mom signed her up for gymnastics. She competed in the four artistic gymnastics events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. Unfortunately, after 16 years of the sport, Grey was forced to quit due to hip and back pain.

“My hips started hurting originally around five years ago, but then the pain left and didn’t come back until my final year of gymnastics. I wasn’t able to compete, and it got to the point that I couldn’t do anything that hurt,” Grey said.

Oddly, doctors said nothing was wrong with her hips, but she continued physical therapy.

Since she couldn’t be a gymnast, Grey looked toward a sport she started in middle school: track and field.

“As soon as I got hurt, my mom told me I had to find a sport to do because I need a scholarship for college,” Grey said. “So I started getting serious about track since it was something I was good at.”

Today, Grey runs the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes for the team, with her personal record time for the 100-meter being 12.4 seconds, and her best 200-meter time being 27.28 seconds. She’s also decided to experiment with long-jump, an event she’s never competed in before, and her goal is to perform well at the track championships at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, her season started with a sprained ankle, for which she also goes to therapy.

“Practices can be rough when we practice long-distance, but in the end, it’s all worth it to see me get better over time,” she said.

Keeping a cool head and being relaxed is a huge part of Grey performing her best at meets.

“In order to get myself calm and collected before an event, I usually listen to a variety of music and stretch for a while,” Grey said.

For this track and field season, Zola was selected as one of the team captains.

“She’s a committed, mature runner with a lot of leadership,” said high school track and field coach Rick Fullum. “She’s a great role model for younger runners.”

Even at school, Grey shows these qualities among her peers.

“She’s very friendly, willing to help people out, and competitive in a good way,” said friend and senior Tina Huang.

One of Grey’s favorite pastimes is art, as an avid student in both AP Studio Art and AP Art History.

“I got interested in art in high school, and from there I just started liking it more and more,” Grey said. “I draw whatever I feel like because it’s a great way for me to take my mind off of injuries and stress.”

Grey loves to draw people, anywhere from realistic to cartoonish, inspiring her to pursue a degree related to art in college.

“I really want to get into Chapman University,” she said. “They have a great art program there, and it’s my dream school.”

With Grey training hard each practice, being a captain others can look up to and staying focused, she hopes to do well at the track championships and end the season with a scholarship to pursue her artistic dreams.

— By William Holz

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