Ai'yanna Gray-Williams

Ai'yanna Gray-Williams, Parkland High School 

Do the work, reap the rewards. It’s an old-school axiom that’s tried and true.

Ai’yana Gray-Williams knows all about it.

If she continues on her current path, Gray-Williams, a freshman, will finish her career as one of Parkland’s most accomplished track and field athletes.

Given her status as a rising talent, it’s clear that the future holds much promise. Gray-Williams looks to start building her legacy at the Class 3-A state indoor championships today at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

“With all the work I’ve put in, I’ve always believed it would lead to great outcomes,” she said. “For the state championships, I just want to do my best and keep progressing.”

Gray-Williams figures to be a solid favorite to earn All-State honors by placing among the top four at the state meet. Her best shot at winning gold will come as a member of the Mustangs 4x200 relay, which is No. 1 in the Class 3-A state rankings compiled by the NC Runners website.

Entering today’s competition, here’s how she stacks up in the Class 3-A state rankings in her individual events.

  • 3rd — 55-meter dash (7.20 seconds)
  • 4th — 300-meter dash (41.27 seconds)
  • 4th — Long jump (17-feet, 1 ¼ inches)

“Ai’yana was average when she started cross-country training last fall,” Coach Antwan Hughes said. “Because of her training, she’s turned in some remarkable performances in her first year. That’s why she’s become one of the top athletes in 3-A for the indoor season.”

Tarrish Alexander, who coaches Parkland’s jumpers, is confident that Gray-Williams will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. He sees no reason why she won’t contend at the national level in the not-too-distant future.

“Ai’yana is always trying to perfect what she’s been taught,” Alexander said. “Her work ethic is through the roof. In the years to come, she will be one of the top talents in the nation.”

Alexander’s prediction about Gray-Williams is not a case of a coach hyping an athlete. Gray-Williams stands to benefit immensely from having Ija Mumford as a teammate and mentor.

Mumford, a sophomore, is the reigning state champion in the long jump and triple jump. Aside from that, she won the long jump in the freshman division at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals last year. Mumford and Gray-Williams compete in the same events, including the 4x200 relay.

“Having Ija around helps a lot,” Gray-Williams said. “My goal is to be as good as she is or better. To do that, I have to maintain the right mindset. She pushes me to be the very best I can be.”

Craig T. Greenlee

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