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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Senior stories: University’s Aayiana Fuller chases running dream to Gonzaga

Aayiana Fuller has been running most of her life. When she started all those years ago, she never dreamed that it might end up helping her pay for college.

After a high school track and cross country career that took her from Hanford to University to the State 4A meet, she will continue to run for Gonzaga next year.

In the fall, Fuller placed seventh at the state cross country meet, and followed that up with a personal best at the Foot Locker West Regionals, where she placed 28th in the 5,000-meter race.

She was looking forward to her spring season, hoping to improve upon last year’s ninth-place finish in the state 800-meter race.

“I was really hoping to PR this year in the 800 – and the 400, too,” she said.

Fuller is the rare athlete who gets better when the stakes are higher, as was the case at the Foot Locker race.

“I think it was just me starting to believe in myself more, listening more to what coaches are saying about when I could achieve,” she said.

“It really helped me believe in myself, so when I saw that there were more people (competing), I kind of just thought of it like any other race. It was just time to find the biggest pack and chase them down.”

Despite that success, Fuller said the 800 is her favorite race and she was anxious to move on to the shorter distances this spring.

“I was kind of relieved that I was able to carry strength from last track season to cross country, and shift gears from short distance to long distance,” she said. “It made me really happy to be able to have that strength in my body this spring. So I was really excited for the track season to start to go back to short distance.”

Fuller moved with her mom from Richland, where she attended Hanford High, to Spokane the summer between her sophomore and junior year.

Only recently did Fuller become fully aware that her running could be an avenue to education.

“I think, sophomore year I started seeing some of my friends at Hanford getting mail, and talking about colleges wanting them to run for them,” she said. “I didn’t really know that was like a real thing, that you can get scholarships for that.”

Like most seniors this year, she was disappointed on missing her last high school season.

“To be honest, I was sort of in shock,” she said about finding out school would be shut down due to the pandemic.

“I just didn’t think it was real, but I just had hope that my track season would come back hopefully after a month. But it didn’t happen.”

Fuller started running in the second grade, when she entered a “jogathon” in school – and won.

“I would race everybody,” she said. “I loved the competition.”

She also loved the prizes.

“Yeah, I got a trophy in second grade. I was really surprised.”

Fuller won her first distance race, a 1-mile run, in the fourth grade. It opened her eyes to the possibilities.

“I just started to think, ‘What if I kept doing this,’ you know? What if I kept getting good and running with elite people. So I kind of chased that.”

Gonzaga got interested in Fuller in the fall.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said.

“I believe it was either at regionals or right before regionals. And I got a message, an email from the Gonzaga coach, and he wanted to get to know me as an athlete and he wished me luck at the state meet.”

She met with Gonzaga coach Jake Stewart and an assistant after state.

“He liked my running abilities, and hopefully who I was as a person,” she said. “It kind of went on from there.”

“It’s going to be great to add Aayiana to the program next fall,” Stewart said in a press release. “We feel strongly that Aayiana’s best running is in front of her and we’re happy to have her stay home here at Gonzaga.”

Big dreams: Tanner Madison didn’t play baseball throughout his high school career until joining U-Hi’s Legion team last summer. Now, he won’t get the chance.

He always had a love for the game, but football and injuries prevented him from trying out.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, he physically fits the mold for football lineman, and he will continue to play at the next level, suiting up for Idaho in the fall.

This past fall, his football season ended early after suffering a serious knee injury. He wasn’t sure he would be ready for baseball come spring, but he put in the rehab work and was ready to go when tryouts came around.

“He is such a great leader both on and off the field,” baseball coach Kevin May said. “He won’t get to experience his last ‘hurrah’ with baseball.”

University senior roll call

Baseball: David Caudillo, Andrew Heesh, Paul Heppner, Tanner Madison, Dakota Predmore, Laken Young. Softball: Avery Carbajal, Kassidy Hammell, Alyssa James, Ainsley Rell. Boys Soccer: Altyn Cader, Conor Dobbin, Cole Dobson, Nolan Harding, Desmond Nguyen, Parker Simpson, Eric Smart, Cole Stewart, Aedyn Triplett, Tristan Warn. Boys Tennis: Gabe Hawkinson, Sebastian Sanders. Girls Tennis: Hannah Carver, Megan Carver, Makia Corson, Briana Crowley, Vanessa Esposito, Madison Fischer, Lyssa Henderson, Kathryn Hilfiker, Faye Keevy, Sarai King, Gabrielle Turner, Allison VanSyke. Boys Golf: Max Carper. Girls Golf: Vanessa Esposito, Emily Kushnerchuk. Boys Track: Samuel Anderson, Mathew Auble, Ian Barville, Jonas Bears, Wyatt Bellus, William Bryant, Kenny Castro, Jacob Crowley, Wyatt Dauer, Jayden Dudley, Jacob Easton, Alec Edwards, Daniel Foster, Ashton Goff, Mason Gregerson, Kristian Harju, Caleb Holschen, Liam Hurley, Connor Kiepe, Ashton Kopczick, Li “Scott” Hongyong, Gabriel Mack, Ethan Mankins, Austin Minter, Jacob Moxley, Tyson Niva, Jumariea Palmer, David Roberts, Tony Rupp, Alec Russell, Eric Slocum, David Storey, Peyton Vernier, Noah Vincent, Hunter Walker. Girls Track: Katherine Blycker, Dava Copenhaver, Aayiana Fuller, Emily Hodges, Allysa Olp, Cammey Ragsdale, Luisa Ramirez.

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