Carnegie Vanguard High School sophomore Laila Payne gave a stellar performance in the 2023 UIL 5A girls 300-meter hurdles championship to place first.
Payne, who will be team captain of Carnegie’s girls track and field team next year according to Head Coach Jaime Ford, also runs the 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash, and 400-meter dash.
Before joining the team, Payne competed in club track during the off seasons which has been a major factor in her success.
According to Principal Ramon E. Moss, Payne is also an honor student who performs on a stellar level academically.
Payne sat down with HISD Strategic Communications Specialist Travion Harmon to discuss her road to become a state champion and what it felt like to win.
Q: Congratulations on the big win! Some would argue that the 300-meter hurdles are the toughest race in the sport. How does it feel to win and be crowned 2023 5A girls 300-meter hurdles state champion?
A: I feel really accomplished in myself. I know a lot of people would not even want to run that race *chuckles* but I feel very accomplished because not only do I love the race, but I achieved my goal for this season, and I think knowing that makes me really happy.
Q: What was it like after crossing the finishing line and realizing that all your hard work paid off?
A: I was really running out of fear, so I was grateful that she did not catch me because it was such a big stage. There were lots of cameras, and I knew that if I lost, I would probably go home that evening and say ‘Hey, oh I wish I would have pushed a little harder,’ but instead now I can say, ‘Hey, I actually did really good that race,’ so I was really proud.
Q: Earlier you stated that a lot of runners shy away from running the race because of how challenging it is, which leads me to my next question. Is there anyone or any inspiration as to why you were inspired to give the 300-meter hurdles a try?
A: I went to the World Championships over the summer last year in Oregon, and I saw Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone run the 400-meter hurdles, and like I know it isn’t the same as the 300-meter hurdles. But I was sitting around the 250 mark, and I saw her coming around, and I was like, ‘I want to be able to do that, that’s crazy’. So, I was really impressed by that.
Q: Did I hear you say you just started competing in the 300-meter hurdles last year?
A: Yes, I started running 300-meter hurdles my freshman year because I’ve always wanted to do hurdles.
Q: You don’t just wake up as state champion, so what all it did it take for you to be able to reach your goal in just one year?
A: I think coming into high school, I just knew a lot of the girls would have years of experience competing in club track, so having to compete with that level of technique, I knew I was literally going to have to bring it. It took lots of practice. We practiced on the weekends; we practiced every morning except Fridays before school, and I had practice after school for hurdles, so I pretty much practiced every day.
Q: I also understand that you’re an honor roll student. What’s it like having to practice every day while also making sure your grades don’t suffer?
A: The goal is always to maintain my grades. I think if my grades did start to suffer, I would pull back on track because my grades come first and are my number one priority.
Q: For a fellow student-athlete who is quite booked and busy like yourself, what advice would you offer them as far as time management goes?
A: I think one thing that makes me different from others is that I love track. For me, I always get my classwork done first, so I always try to plan and create a schedule for myself to know what I can and cannot get done.
Q: What are your goals for the next coming years here at Carnegie, not only on the track and field, but also with your academic endeavors?
A: I think that if I continue to meet my goals and put in the effort I’m putting in now, I truly believe I can run in college. Not many people in my family have gone to college, but that’s something I can see for myself. I’m going to continue running next year and the year afterwards and probably try some new events.