Alaysia Oakes' sigh of relief may have been heard all the way in Palo Alto.
The Heritage-Lynchburg senior had spent a fair chunk of time over the past two years fielding phone calls, and reading letters from dozens of schools searching for the services of the 13-time Class 3 Virginia state champion. Coupled with the fact that the Heritage girls' team is relying on her services in as many as six events to claim their fourth state team title in her four years, and the weight of the world must have seemed like it was on her shoulders.
But making her recent decision to attend and compete with Stanford University made life a little easier.
"It feels great," said Oakes, just two days after winning both the girls triple jump and long jump at last weekend's VA Showcase.
Part of her anxiety came from the worry of a premature choice.
"I was nervous about deciding so soon," said Oakes, who also noted Kentucky, UNC, and Oklahoma as the other three finalists. "But I decided to take the unofficial visit and was impressed, so I went for the official visit."
It was on the second trip to Northern California that Oakes suddenly felt at home.
"I like the atmosphere and culture they are building there." But there was much more. "There are too many factors," Oakes added, thinking about her decision to attend Stanford. "Obviously, they are a great academic school, but it wasn't just academics. I want to get into business and they have a strong economics program. But they also have the top, or one of the top recruiting classes for this year. In the end, when track ends, which I hope is no time soon, I want a solid degree to fall on to help propel me to the next level."
And last weekend, Oakes did plenty of propelling, breaking one barrier, while continuing to inch toward another.
In the triple jump, Oakes cleared 40 feet for the first two times ever during the series, with her winning jump of 40-7.75 placing two feet in front of the nearest competitor.
Oakes has always been targeted as a triple jumper, and reminisced about her auspicious start in the event, when she launched a 33-8 effort as an eighth grader.
"I remember coaches and people were coming over and talking about it, but I didn't know (the importance) of what it was." Kind if surprising since she had already been involved with track for two years, but also played basketball and volleyball.
She set a focus after tenth grade, by which time she had already emerged as a standout with a Heritage team that won an outdoor state championship her freshman year, and indoors as a sophomore.
"COVID helped," said Oakes. "During the break from outdoors, I realized that I needed to focus on track," also admitting that she was much better in track than the other sports."
Oakes also won the long jump. The initial winning jump was listed as 18-11.25, but switched to 19-6 after the Showcase when a clerical error was discovered.
While she is still searching for the 20-foot long jump, there is time. Oakes is a workhorse, and will still run the sprints, if only to have opportunities to eclipse the state record for individual titles, which appears to be at 19, counting relays. Francena McCorory (Bethel 2003-06) holds the indoor mark with eight, while Paula Girven (Gar-Field 1974-76), Keena Schuler (Broadway 1993-97), and Sheena Johnson (Gar-Field 1997-2000) top the outdoor list with nine.
The state champion count will be part of her list of goals, which gets updated as often as every meet. Right now, the list includes winning either the long or triple jump at Nationals (at Virginia Beach). "I'll need to have the right focus and be able to execute on that day."