It took less than a minute for Nebraska native Jaiya Patillo to run the 400-meter race in her first indoor track meet of 2022. Patillo ran 400 meters countless times before, but this race was special. This was her first race against college-aged competition and she is only in the 7th grade!
A Track Prodigy
Jaiya Patillo started her track career at the age of seven. She quickly found that she was built for the sport after she reached nationals in her first season. Since then she has racked up some serious hardware, reaching the Junior Olympics nine times. In 2019, she was named the Nebraska Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Patillo says that, despite her success on the track, competitors often don’t take her very seriously because of her age.
“I think people underestimate me because I am younger… but I try to prove them wrong. Almost ninety percent of the time I end up winning so my actions speak louder than my words” she told Zoomin TV.
In 2021, Patillo became an internet sensation when she went viral on Tik-Tok after running 17-miles an hour on a treadmill. The video was picked up by ESPN and had over a billion views across all platforms. Check out the video below.
Even with all of her athletic success, Patillo and her family make sure that she stays grounded in her faith and who she is as a person, not just as an athlete.
“God is the one who keeps me motivated because He is the one who gave me this gift” she told Whistle Sports. “Supporters keep me motivated and my family keeps me motivated. I want to keep going with my career and I appreciate them for all of it.”
Like most middle schoolers, Patillo has diverse interests. She loves art and music and hopes to one day have a career in the arts. On the track, she has aspirations of reaching the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Patillo says that she wants to show people that they can succeed regardless of who they are.
“It doesn’t matter what age or race you are, you can do whatever you want to do as long as you train and do everything you need to do for it.”