Only a sophomore, women's track and field runner Avi’Tal Wilson-Perteete just wrapped up are second campaign with a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the University of Texas in June. It was already her second trip to nationals, and she posted the best finish for a Rebel at the event since 2012 with a third-place finish in the 800m.
The Oakland native and pre-business major has two more years to do big things for the Rebels, but first we checked in with her to talk about nationals, running indoors, and the importance of free T-shirts.
How did it go at nationals?
It was quite the experience. Texas is, you know, I thought it was going to be a lot warmer than it was going to be but it was cold and it was raining. It was crazy to be in such a competitive field just knowing that I was racing against the the top collegiate athletes in our nation. That was pretty exciting kind of terrifying. I threw up.
From nerves, or something else?
I think it was from the heat. I was low on electrolytes. I think because it was humid out there.
What did you learn about that level of competition or about yourself?
A lot about myself, actually. So this is a lesson that actually had learned from NCAAs last year indoors but it's kind of manifests itself in an another form this year. It's my mentality, but when I go into my races, it plays a really big factor into how I perform in my race. Freshman year at indoor nationals, I was really hard on myself. That's kind of where my head was before I went into the race and sure enough. I got second-to-last, but that's only because a girl fell in my race. I was really mad after that race and but I realized like it was my mentality that put me in the wrong spot. Since then I've been working really hard to try to make sure I don't go back to that. This year I felt like I was in control during the whole race. I learned that I have to stop being so hard on myself before a race.
Absolutely right before you stepped on the track for your first competition for UNLV, what was going through your mind?
I was like, oh hope I don't get last. It was a 400 as my first race for UNLV. College training is a complete 180 from high school training. So I knew that we had been putting in a lot of work, but I was kind of thinking like oh, well, what if all this hard work doesn't really yield any results or you know, just kind of a lot of nerves and.
But my coach told me last year. He was like no one's really expecting anything from you right now. You’re just a freshman so nobody really knows who you are. So just go out there and show them who you are. So I've been trying to carry that message with me doing my races. That's what was going through my head: his words, but also my nerves.
How did you settled on 400 and 800 and as your distances?
I actually got tricked into running the 800. I was supposed to be a sprinter. So I was a 100, 200 runner and occasional 400 runner. After my third high school race, my coach says, ‘You should try the 800.’ I’d heard rumors about 800 and everybody saying the hardest race.
Why would I want to race that? And then the coach said, ‘If you win your heat you get a free T-shirt.’ So of course I had to run it. Sure enough I ran it and I won my heat. I was probably like 80 meters ahead of everybody by the time I finished it. After that he said the next the next time I would also get a T-shirt. So that's really how he roped me in, two races two free T-shirts.
Do you still have the shirt?
No that's definitely lost over time
As an Oakland native, how do you feel about the Raiders coming to Vegas?
I am not happy about it. Once they move I am definitely going to take a different team. I was really only a Raiders fan because they’re from Oakland. Since they're switching cities and there's no reason to be a Raiders fan. Loyalties for the Raiders don't run that deep in my veins.
You going to make the plunge and go for the Niners?
Absolutely not. No. No. No, I'm not that crazy.
When you’re in the middle of a race how much attention do you pay the other runners around you?
I pay a lot of attention to who I'm racing against. I don't like to pay attention to them before the meet; I don't want to know what their times are. But knowing their strategies, like how they typically run the races. Every 800 runner has their own like staple that they usually like. We have the frontrunners, the people who sit in the back people. It was nice to kind of know what their strategy typically I,s but when I'm in the race, I pay a lot of attention to how they're running -- what their breathing pattern is what their stride is like, if they used their kick already. It's a lot of just in the moment decision making that goes on when I'm running the 800.
I do have a strategy that I typically like to go by in the beginning of the race but, as with anything, life throws curve balls. So you just kind of have to be adaptable. That's my biggest thing in the 800: stick to the plan, but also be aware of who's around me and if I have to change my plan, I have to change my plan.
What makes a good relay team?
Teammates that trust each other, teammates that want the best for each other and just having that that drive to want to win not only for yourself but for your teammates. The closer to team, the better the relay.
Do you believe in astrology?
I love astrology. I don't all believe in it completely but I definitely do like to look at it as a different perspective.
Has it ever come into play on race day?
No, not race day. I try not to look into the stars for that
if you weren't running track, what sport do you think he'd be playing?
I would not be playing a sport at all. I do not have hand-eye coordination. That really narrows it down. I don't have eye-foot coordination either so pretty much any sport that has to do with throwing catching any objects, that's out. So that's like 90 percent of all sports and I can't swim so pretty much track is only thing I can do.
Is that how you ended up in track?
I used to play soccer actually, but in elementary school, but then I didn't like smelling like grass all the time.
What's the one toy or game you wanted the most growing up that you didn’t get?
I've always wanted the game Pokemon and I know it sounds weird, but my cousin always used to play Pokemon . I would always watch him play it but I never got it and so recently when I got my Nintendo Switch I finally got my first Pokemon game. It took me like 20 years to get it, but I got it.
How was the payoff?
My friends told me that it was the easiest Pokemon game that had ever released. They were like, oh, yeah, it was meant for people to get interested in Pokemon. It was meant to be really easy so that kind of It kind of took away a little bit of it but you know, it was the first one that I purchased on my own. So I was really proud of myself.
Do you prefer indoor or outdoor meets?
Indoor, because I don't like weather that sounds weird but like weather really interferes with races a lot. If it's raining, I don't want to race at all ever. I'll find 50 different ways to get out of competing if it's raining. if it's windy that's the worst. It's like running with a parachute. If it's too hot then you feel like you're melting and then your sweat is like weighing you down. If it's too cold, then, you know, then you have to warm up for like two hours before you can even race and then you have to stay warm on the line. It's just the whole mess.
So you just want a Goldilocks thing?
Yeah it has to be just right.
What does it feel like when you're locked in and meet, you’re in the blocks and you know everything’s going to fire in a race?
I have to give myself a little pep talk when I'm when I'm on the line. It's more like nothing that I can do right now will make me any better than I can be. Kind of looking back, you can say. Oh, I forgot to do this. I forgot to do that, but you're already on the line.
So there's nothing I can do at that moment to make the race end up any better. I have to remind myself that and when the starter takes forever to shoot the gun, I just have to keep myself in that mindset. Don't forget you've been training for this you got this and then once the gun goes off I kind of go primal. It's just really instinctual.