How do you like them apples? The “Big Apple” is about to welcome high school track and field athletes from across New York State as part of the Indoor Track and Field Championships in Staten Island on Saturday, March 5.
This includes Pal-Mac senior Alilena Reynolds-Diaz, who will be making her first appearance. She will compete in the 600 meter relay.
When we spoke to her Wednesday, she was preparing for an outdoor jog as part of her pre-championship training. Reynolds-Diaz was set to head down to New York City the next morning.
“I’m still taking it all in, especially as the weekend approaches,” Reynolds-Diaz said. “It’s crazy to me because it hasn’t happened in like two years.”
Reynolds-Diaz would’ve qualified for states in the 2020-2021 season, but the state championships were canceled due to the pandemic. Last season also marked the first time in school history the Pal-Mac indoor team won sectionals.
Turning the focus back to this year, Reynolds-Diaz got to NYC with a record-breaking performance in the qualifying round as she clocked a final time of 1:39.14 in the 600 meter. The finish was good for third place in the round. Her final time surpassed her previous school record of 1:40.97 in 2020.
On the team since she was in seventh grade, school records are nothing new to her, as she says she holds six different records across multiple indoor and outdoor events. This includes the 4x8, the 4x4, the distance medley relay and the sprint medley relay. She laughed while trying to remember the full list.
Even with a decorated overall career, Reynolds-Diaz said she is humbled by the support she’s received from friends, family and coaches.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people,” she said. “I still have so many friends that are older and younger than me.”
One those coaches she mentioned is head coach Matthew Robbins. Robbins, who has been at the helm for close to two decades, will travel with Reynolds-Diaz down to NYC.
“We’re very proud of Ailena,” Robbins said. “She’s always been an accomplished runner, but she keeps getting better and better. She’s had high goals for herself since middle school so I’m really happy and proud of her for all of her hard work.”
The hard work Robbins mentioned did not stop throughout the week leading up to states. Both Robbins and Reynolds-Diaz said the workload has stayed consistent, though there is an emphasis on rest as well as keeping her running form in shape.
When she’s not running the track, Reynolds-Diaz is also an accomplished musician, as she’s been a part of the school band throughout her high school career. We spoke to her in February as part of a feature on the band’s “Cabaret Night” performance. Reynolds-Diaz plays the flute. The band navigated a months-long practice regiment which included a snow day the day before the cabaret performance on Feb.5.
We asked her what’s harder: Training for a performance, or training for states
“[Laughing] definitely states,” Reynolds-Diaz said.
Before taking off for her practice run, she reflected on her time at Pal-Mac and added a word of wisdom for anyone who has ever had a goal in mind.
“I’m really grateful for those people who helped me on my journey,” she said. “For everyone else, keep working hard and follow your dreams.”
As mentioned before, Reynolds-Diaz also runs outdoor track. The season will begin roughly a week after she comes home from states.
For more information regarding the state championships, including how to watch events, click here.