Oswego East Student Athlete of the Week: Maya Taylor
Mar 24, 2017 01:07PM ● Published by Zac Sadek
The OEHS girls track program has rapidly become one of the top programs in the area and the state.
Despite Lisa Cook stepping down as head coach (she continues to serve as an assistant), and former assistant Erik Aister taking over, the program continues to push its way to the front of the pack. Having devoted coaches has played a large part, but what has allowed the team to achieve sustained success is the culture of winning, hard work, and positive attitudes that permeate the senior class all the way down to the freshman level.
Senior Maya Taylor is one of the senior captains who continues the tradition of exemplary leaders, which is why she is this week’s Oswego East student athlete of the week.
As a member of the basketball and track programs, winning has followed Maya and her teammates wherever they have gone. Last season, Maya was part of the girls basketball program that saw them win their first sectional championship in school history, and a track program that placed 3rd as a team in the state.
This season, Maya is hoping to help lead the track program back to a state berth. As a junior, Maya earned her way to the state finals as a member of the 4 x 100 relay team, while also competing during the season in the 100, 200, and long jump, as well as being a state qualifier as a sophomore.
Last week Maya was able to earn her way to the indoor state track competition in the long jump, an event she continues to improve in every day. Head coach Erik Aister has watched as Maya has grown tremendously since her freshman year, saying, “Maya has grown incredibly as a person since her freshman year, mostly as a leader. She’s always been free spirited with an incredible sense of humor. Her ability to focus when needed, as well as being able to tune out distractions, is the biggest growth I’ve seen.”
Maya’s sense of humor plays a large role in her leadership abilities. Her mother, Michelle Taylor, understands how she uses her sense of humor to help her in her leadership roles, saying, “Maya has a huge heart of gold, wants everybody to be happy, and is willing to use her crazy sense of humor and strong shoulder to lean on to help others through difficult times.” Aister echoes those sentiments by saying, “Maya has the ability to make people laugh and yet people respect her and follow her as a leader. It is very rare to see someone at such a young age be able to navigate being friends, and yet being a strong captain as well.”
With indoor state occurring this weekend, Maya is positioned to build on her personal successes of the past, as she has qualified for Illinois Top Times, and took third in conference for long jump. Long jump has been a position of strength for the Lady Wolves the past few years, and Maya has had the opportunity to learn from one of the most successful in school history, Sade Akinfe.
Sade, now a freshman on the track team at Dartmouth University, is someone Maya credits as having helped her grow to the jumper she is today. “Sade helped me get stronger,” says Maya. Long jump coach Steve Ideran understands just how important Sade, and now Maya’s, leadership is to the program. “Maya got to work with [Sade] every day in practice since her freshman year, and see firsthand what an elite athlete does to be elite, which I think has been enormously beneficial for Maya,” says Ideran. He goes on to add, “[Maya’s] learned a lot from the girls who came before her, and now it’s her time to step up and be that leader. The culture that the girls before her have created around our program is great, and Maya plays an important role in continuing that tradition.”
Maya’s dedication to her craft, in both basketball and track, has helped her mature into the young woman she is today. “Freshman Maya was timid though curious and dreaded the prospect of living in her senior brother’s shadow,” says Michelle. She goes on to add, “Maya has gone from a little girl to a woman almost at the speed of light, and she is now equally comfortable speaking with peers as she is with teachers, coaches, and other OEHS faculty.” Aister has seen the same change in track, saying, “[Maya] has become more confident and more composed. She’s always had an outgoing, vocal persona, and as a senior is using her personality to be one of the leaders on our team.”
Maya’s willingness to attack any obstacle that comes in her way translates into the classroom, and she has challenged herself by taking difficult courses such as advanced placement (AP) World history, AP Chemistry, AP U.S. History, and AP Biology. Maya is still unsure of where she will attend, but has narrowed her choices to Illinois State University, Indiana State University, Saint Cloud State, Minnesota, and North Central.
She is still hopeful she will have an opportunity to continue her career in college, and her coaches Ideran and Aister feel the same. “There is no doubt Maya can compete at the collegiate level,” says Aister. He adds, “Wherever she ends up, the school is going to get an absolute jem because Maya is only going to continue to improve.”
Maya’s leadership skills are clear in the classroom as well, as she is always willing to lend a classmate a hand, and her personality helps create a culture in the classroom that is enjoyable for both teachers and students. Maya’s College Preparatory Statistics teacher, Rachel Anschicks, says, “[Maya] has an upbeat attitude, and while statistics may not always be the easiest class, she approaches it with a positive attitude and a willingness to help her peers.”While Maya and her teammates are hoping to leave their mark on the state this weekend at Illinois Top Times, Maya has no doubt left a legacy that only adds to the tradition of the girls track program. As a student with only two months left in high school, her wisdom can passed down to those future Wolves by stating, “Join as many clubs as you can, talk to as many people as possible, put yourself out there, and be different.” We wish Maya and the girls track program the best of luck as they look to continue adding to their trophy case.