Anaya Dees learned the basics of long jump well before she began competing in track. She spent years at summer camp playing jump the river.
The game came back during her first year on Hilton’s varsity team, and coach Aaron Bapst suggested she try long jump.
“I said, ‘I don’t know I really like my shoes, I don’t want to get them sandy’,” said Dees. “I jumped anyways and my first one was a 15′.”
Now, Dees is the defending NYSPHSAA long jump champion, holds school records in four different events, and is the state silver medalist in the 55 meter hurdles.
“It makes me happy to know I can do so much and I’ve done so much like winning states with an 18′ jump,” said Dees. “It’s always a new experience every time I get on the podium, no matter where I am.”
When she first made Hilton’s varsity track team, upperclassmen were intimidated by eighth grad Dees beating them in meets and at practice. She often felt alone in the beginning, just spending time with the friends she already had from middle school.
“I was just there to practice and it felt like a job,” said Dees. “When I started to win, it felt like even more of a job.”
Things changed, and Dees quickly realized remaining true to herself would make her even happier at practices and attract the friendships she wanted from the beginning.
“Realizing at a young age not everybody’s going to like you helped me to see the people who do like me, the ones I’m going to put my all into,” Dees reflected. “I’ll be encouraging them, cheering their names.”
Dees is taking her talents to the University of Cincinnati in the fall, competing in both jumps and hurdles at the Division I level. She originally visited Carnegie Mellon University and fell in love with the school, but changed her mind as soon as she stepped onto Cincy’s campus.
“It really just opened my eyes to how track is supposed to feel,” said Dees. “Their whole team, it’s like a huge family.”
She wants to spend all four years competing at Cincinnati, only beginning her professional career after learning under the Bearcats’ track and field alumni and coaches. Her ultimate goal is to someday compete in the Olympics, a time honored tradition at Cincinnati.
“There’s a wall of in the facilities of everyone from Cincy who has competed at the Olympics,” Dees said. “All I want is to be up there someday.”