Jada Gatlin, a senior at Mission Viejo High School, is a varsity athlete on the track and field team and a recent addition to USC’s class of 2027.
Jada’s journey in track and field began at the ripe age of 8. At the time, she was really nervous at track meets, not knowing that she would grow up to break one of the school’s records. However, as time went on, she ultimately grew to love the sport as she learned how to reach her full potential in track. She now participates in the 4×1, the 4×4, the 400m, the 200m, the long jump, and the triple jump.
Eventually, Jada worked her way up to being placed in the Junior Olympics not once, but four times. She placed second place twice and first place once in the long jump. Her hard work ultimately paid off in her junior year of high school when she broke the school record of 39 ft (set by Lisa Fager in 1990) in the triple jump with 40 ft 9 inches, earning her an athletic scholarship to be a part of USC’s track program.
Although track may seem like a very straightforward and easy sport, it can be physically and mentally challenging. Jada states that the hardest part of track is the practices that take place almost every day, as well as two track meets per week, especially murder Mondays. She says that “the workouts can be really hard sometimes and can be really draining, so it’s important to take both mental and physical breaks so you can continue doing your best and feeling good.”
What gets Jada through the practices on the track are her teammates and the people she meets along the way. Her teammates find a way to bring out her competitiveness and help encourage her to perform at her best every day. She loves meeting and talking to new people, which makes the environment at track much more enjoyable.
After graduating from Mission Viejo, Jada will be joining USC’s track and field team with an athletic scholarship. When asked about this achievement, she stated, “ I am very excited to go to USC [because] it is a great track program and I’m so proud I was able to get a scholarship there. It is a very good school, so it is a little intimidating, but I am mostly excited to continue doing track at the next level.”
Jada hopes that one day she’ll be able to work up to taking part in the long or triple jump in the Olympics. Her biggest dream is to be able to compete in the 2028 Olympics, which is taking place in Los Angeles so that her family and everyone she knows will be able to see her compete.
Her words of encouragement for anyone who wants to join track is that “there is an event for everyone to fall in love with. The people are so nice and encouraging and it is definitely a great team to be around.”