When she was in elementary school, Holy Names High's Sasha Wallace tried basketball.
"I played basketball for a few small teams, but I wasn't really coordinated," she said. "They put me in the middle because I was so tall."
Instead, she gravitated toward track and field.
Basketball's loss was track's gain.
Wallace had one of the most outstanding track and field seasons in the nation this spring. Besides winning California Interscholastic Federation state titles in both the girls triple jump and 100-meter hurdles, the junior led the nation in both events at the end of the prep season, according to the DyeStat Elite 100 high school rankings.
Wallace produced the fastest wind-legal time in the nation in the 100 hurdles as she won the state final in 13.33 seconds. She then led from her first attempt in the triple jump to eventually claim the title by nearly 17 inches with a mark of 41 feet, 53/4 inches.
She was the national leader during the high school season with a mark of 42-43/4 inches (wind-legal). Her best marks in both the 100 hurdles and triple jump were among the 10 best in California high school history in the events. She also won both events at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions.
For her outstanding season, Wallace has been named the Bay Area News Group East Bay Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"I just really worked hard this season," Wallace said after she won her state
"You have to grow into a champion," said Curtis Taylor, Wallace's club coach at the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
Wallace added two top-five finishes at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships last weekend in Bloomington, Ind. She was third in the triple jump (41-83/4 wind-legal) and fifth in the 100 hurdles (13.55 into a strong headwind).
"I felt like it was an excellent track meet overall. It gave me more experience," said Wallace, who faced a number of collegiate athletes as 19-year-olds are allowed to compete in the meet.
"I'm proud of the way she competed," Taylor said.
Wallace is excited about going back to the USA Junior Outdoor Championships next year. Her opponents during the high school season might not be as excited about the prospect of facing Wallace for another year.