The same Aaliyah Wilson that overcame ultimate triumph over tragedy at the state track and field championships last June is the same one that signed with a PAC-12 program without any fanfare.
In a world where everything is instantaneous on social media, Wilson decided to keep it old school.
While high school athletes around the country are eager to post offers from and commitments to college athletics programs, Wilson stayed quiet on social media.
She's a thoughtful and insightful person who sets lofty goals for herself but doesn’t express them.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Stockdale senior, who finished fifth in the 100-meters at the CIF State Track and Field Championships last season and is the Central Section record-holder in the 100 hurdles, didn't make a big announcement when she signed to run track at the University of Washington in early December.
“I just never think about posting (on social media),” Wilson said. “I don’t. It’s not the first thing I think of.”
What Wilson does think about is her end goal. Whether it’s on the track or what career she intends to pursue after her running days are over (she wants to become a pediatrician), Wilson is calculated.
Take her body language, for instance.
At the Central Section Masters Championship at Memorial Stadium in Clovis last May, Wilson broke the section record in the 100 hurdles.
A roar came over the crowd when it was announced, but Wilson seemed like the only one not excited about the moment.
That’s part of her mental makeup. Inside, Wilson was honored to break Morganne Hill’s record, but her performance was not to her personal standard, and that came out after the race.
“When I didn’t run the time I wanted, I was mad at myself,” Wilson said. “I know everyone was happy, but in my mind, I know I could have ran better. I expect more out of myself and when I don’t live up to that, I get upset. People ask why I don’t get excited about a (personal record). It’s because I don’t allow one thing to get me excited. It’s just one thing in a process for me.”
That mentality and the fact that Wilson is such a fun-loving person that is all smiles when she isn't competing is what makes Wilson so special, according to Stockdale track and field coach Dave Lonsinger.
“She is extremely self-motivating,” Lonsinger said. “When you talk to any athlete that is driven, those are the ones that have passion. That’s why you never want to kill the passion, you want to foster it.”
That mentality also allowed Wilson to be part of one of the top storylines in 2017.
In a span of 77 minutes, Wilson went from the agony of falling midway through the 100-meter hurdles in the preliminary heat of the CIF State Track and Field Championships to qualifying for the state finals in the 100.
“It’s rooted in her being a very motivated person,” Lonsinger said. “She has extremely high goals, but does enjoy the process. She understands the beauty of having tough goals because reaching them has you go through some tough times.”
Wilson said the recruiting process, which can become overwhelming for some, was also an enjoyable experience. Part of the comfort is the fact that both of her parents were college athletes, her older brothers, Fred, Jr. (UNLV) and Fonderaux (Idaho State) played college football while her sister, Falon, is on the track team at Cal State Bakersfield.
With interest from numerous college programs including UCLA and Miami, Wilson chose Washington over her only other offer from Fresno State.
“I liked the way the school looked and it felt different,” Wilson said. “I like to experience different and new things. Plus, they have a really good medical programs up there.”
Recruited by Eric Metcalf, the former three-time NFL Pro Bowl running back who is now the sprints coach at Washington, Wilson felt it was the right fit for her next step in her process on whether to continue as a hurdler and a sprinter or concentrate on one event in college.
“(Metcalf) was recruiting me to do both,” Wilson said. “But he wants me to train more on the 100. I don’t mind running both. I like them both. I was a hurdler my whole life, but my mom wanted me to do the 100.”
That advice coming from her mom, Andrelette Wilson (Gill), the record-holder in the women’s 100 at Cal State Bakersfield, has made Wilson into one of the best dual threat track and field athletes in the nation.
Wilson’s time of 13.72 in the 100 hurdles is the second-fastest of all returners in California and the 10th fastest in the U.S.
Her time of 11.67 in the 100 is ranked third in California and the 28th fastest in the country.
Wilson has her sights set on state gold this season.
“I’m excited and anxious to see what I will do,” Wilson said. “My goal is to win state. That’s every athlete's goal. But my main goal is always to run faster.”
She has times in mind that she wants to reach this season, but she'll keep those to herself.
“If I say something, then that’s what people are going to expect out of me,” Wilson said. “If I don’t, then there are less expectations. So if no one knows what they are, I’m cool and calm. I don’t like to feel pressure from others."
Driven to be the best she can be is part of the joy of coaching her for Lonsinger.
“She’s different because she can set a high goal and push herself,” Lonsinger said. “And while she’s doing that, she’s fun to be around. It’s rare to have that high-end goal and enjoy the process while not being satisfied in the process.”