High School Sports

South Sound shows star power in track and field by sending several athletes to Division I schools

Tahoma’s Aliya Wilson finishes the 4A girls 4x100 event at the Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
Tahoma’s Aliya Wilson finishes the 4A girls 4x100 event at the Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, May 27, 2017. jbessex@gateline.com

When it comes to separation anxiety, Tahoma High School senior Aliya Wilson is convinced her twin sister, Alisha, will suffer the most when they head off to college.

Honestly, it might be the cooking her sister misses the most.

Aliya Wilson is obsessed with nutrition, and prepares lunches for the twins every week — stuffed bell peppers, chicken with sweet potatoes and vegetables, you name it.

“She’ll probably call me and ask me what she should eat today,” Aliya Wilson said.

The sisters are track and field standouts, and are among the athletes in the South Sound headed to big-time Division I programs next fall.

Aliya (“Nami”) Wilson has signed her National Letter of Intent with Kentucky, while her sister Alisha (“Miya”) Wilson is headed to Oregon.

Their teammate, Bryana Rogers, is also Pac-12 bound, having signed with Washington State.

In Lakewood, Lakes sprinter Dorien Simon is going to Stanford.

Gig Harbor’s Hannah Carroll has inked her commitment with LSU. And her Tides teammates Jurrian Hering (Idaho) and Bradley Peloquin (Portland) have also secured scholarships in track.

“I guess we’re all just really motivated,” Simon said of the crop of South Sound track stars headed to Division I programs. “Once you get in the weight room and start dropping your times, you get even more motivated (and think), ‘My hard work is paying off, that is the most satisfying thing that can happen.’

“And you just keep striving for faster times and bigger things.”

The Wilson twins have led Tahoma to the past two Class 4A girls track and field state titles.

Aliya won titles last spring in the 100 meters (11.96 seconds), the 200 (24.43) and was a member of two championship-winning relays on the 400 and 800 teams.

Alisha was just behind her sister as the 4A runner-up in the 100 (12.03), while also running a leg of the 400 relay, and winning a title in the long jump (19 feet, 2 inches).

While the twins considered the idea of running for the same college, they eventually realized they had different goals in mind.

“We just had different ideas of what we wanted to do in college,” Alisha Wilson said.

For Alisha Wilson, she loved the weather in Eugene, the culture at Oregon, and the proximity to home.

“I really liked the coaches there,” she said. “They really care about their athletes, take care of them and take them under their wings. I saw that in practice. It’s something I wanted to be a part of, just with the teamwork and community they have.”

She plans to study biology with the eventual goal of being a geneticist. And on the track, she feels the Ducks culture could take her to the next level.

“I really want to become an NCAA All-American,” she said.

Aliya Wilson, meanwhile, plans to become a sports dietician — unsurprisingly. Kentucky fit her academic plans, and the coaching staff in Lexington impressed her during her visit.

“Just the way the team treated me when I got there and the coaches — I just knew it was going to be home,” she said. “I just felt comfortable there.”

Rogers, also a member of Tahoma’s star-studded track and field team, is headed to Pullman as primarily a jumper.

She took sixth in the 4A state meet last spring in long jump (17-9 1/2), and also competes in the triple jump and high jump.

“I think jumping is a lot more technical than running,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of technical aspects that go into it.”

Rogers plans to study sports science and become a sports medicine physician. She said her time with Tahoma has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s been quite an experience,” she said. “I think, especially the past couple years, we’ve really been able to grow our program. Our coaches are amazing. We have a good team dynamic.”

In Pullman, Rogers hopes to continue to unlock her potential.

“I’ll be able to really focus on track at WSU, improve my technique and hopefully continue to see better results,” she said. “The coaches are extremely focused on success there, but are also focused on the individual, and making sure they’re growing.”

For Simon, who carries a 4.0 GPA at Lakes, finding a school with a strong academic reputation was as equally as important as continuing his sprinting career. He chose Stanford over schools like Harvard, Brown, Columbia, MIT and Georgetown.

“I really loved that it was the perfect intersection of outstanding academics and outstanding athletics,” Simon said at his signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon, clad in Cardinal red.

“And, I think what really sold me on the school was I really loved the coach, I loved the programs the school had to offer, I loved the location in California, and I really loved the team. When I was there (to visit), they accepted me as part of them. It really felt like home.”

Simon one a trio of 3A state titles last spring in the 100 (10.56), 200 (21.5) and 4x100 relay (41.68). He plans to study mathematics with a concentration in physics or finances at Stanford.

Carroll is one of several Gig Harbor runners who has carved out a dominant career.

At the 3A state championship meet last spring, Carroll led the Tides’ girls team to a state title, winning the 400 (55.38), the 200 (25), and ran legs of Gig Harbor’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays.

“The (LSU coaches) liked my speed, liked that I run a pretty quick 400,” she said. “They think I could be a really good 800 runner, also. They think I haven’t reached my potential yet.”

Carroll suffered a setback last fall on the soccer field, when an opposing player went in hard for a tackle, causing Carroll to tear her ACL, MCL and partially tear her meniscus.

She had surgery on Nov. 27, and at that time, still hadn’t committed to a college. She called LSU distance coach Mark Rinker to give him the news, wondering if they’d still have interest in recruiting her.

“He was nothing but supportive,” Carroll said. “They didn’t have to keep their offer. But, he told me that it doesn’t change anything and he knew I’d work hard to get back. I felt so relieved and supported. I had that moment of, ‘Who else would do that?’ They just went above and beyond for me.”

Hering, who opted to stick with track and field in college instead of playing football, has signed with Idaho. He won a 3A state championship in the 110 hurdles (14.21) last spring.

Peloquin will run cross country and track at Portland. He was the 3A runner-up in the 3,200 last spring to Lincoln’s James Mwaura, who is a freshman at Gonzaga. Peloquin was also a top-10 placer at the state cross country meet the past three seasons.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.