Nyah Paulding won both the long jump and the triple jump at the Rossi Relays in Claremont Feb. 24. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

Nyah Paulding earns CCAA Field Athlete of the Week after two first place finishes at Rossi Relays

By April Ruiz, March 12, 2024

Cal Poly Pomona jumps competitor Nyah Paulding was named California Collegiate Athletic Association Field Athlete of the Week after winning both the long jump and triple jump at the Rossi Relays in Claremont Feb. 24.

Paulding started her journey in the sport in first grade when her parents signed her up after seeing a poster at her elementary school. From then on out, her mother, who unbeknownst to Paulding was an athlete as well, entered her into clubs, which ignited a passion for years to come.

“I didn’t know my parents did sports previously; they just let me find it on my own,” said Paulding.

It wasn’t until later in her life she learned her father also did track and field and her mother played basketball.

Enjoying her independence within the world of track and field, Paulding began taking it more seriously in the sixth grade when more pressure was put on her, especially by her mother. Not only was Paulding running track, but she also managed to juggle basketball and volleyball at the same time.

However, the connection of both her mother and grandfather playing basketball caused Paulding to drift away from the sport.

“It burned me out faster because it felt like a chore, and my parents were trying to get me to do things and forcing me to go to practices and stuff like that, which I didn’t want to do,” said Paulding.

Facing the decision of picking between volleyball and track and field, Pauling made the choice to stick to track and field in high school due to the longevity and the time and effort she had invested in the sport at that point.

A sprinter at the time, Paulding made her way to jumping by chance after attending the wrong practice. Guided by motivating coaches, Paulding put her trust in them, leading her to not only enjoy jumping more but also leading her on a promising path in the sport.

COVID-19 along with mental health struggles played a part in the journey. The pandemic hit at the end of her senior year of high school, creating two years of time off before Paulding made it back on the track at San Francisco State University.

“When I took that break, I started thinking more about it like, ‘Is this something I want to do? Do I want to keep going through this? Am I mentally ready to do this?'” said Paulding.

Paulding continued at San Francisco State where she achieved multiple personal best jumps in the long jump, placed fourth and sixth in the long jump and triple jump respectively at the CCAA Championships and won Gator of the Week twice during her tenure at the university.

After a year at San Francisco State, Paulding made her way to Cal Poly Pomona where things would change both mentally and physically, which called for a mental health pause. The move was not only helpful when it came to her desired career, but the environment was also something Paulding wished to change.

“My reason for moving from San Francisco to Pomona is that the environment at SF wasn’t healthy for me, and I just didn’t feel like it was the team environment for me,” said Paulding.

CPP’s team had previously caught her eye as a place where she could find opportunities to grow and progress as an athlete as well as a team-oriented and welcoming environment. And while the move from the bay to Pomona did present some challenges, Paulding has since found her transfer to be motivating, with her peers helping her strive for improvement even in the face of intimidation.

The move has also affected her personally outside of her life as an athlete.

“I definitely see a big change in how I present myself and how I act here,” Paulding said. “It’s the environment that my coaches and teammates have allowed me to have to, you know, be myself and be comfortable.”

This change is proven in Paulding’s performance, as she jumped 5.25 meters to win the long jump at the Rossi Relays. Her mark of 11.59 meters in the triple jump was not only the highest at the Rossi Relays but is also currently the highest mark in all of NCAA Division II.

Going into the Rossi Relay like any other meet, Paulding found herself a little hesitant after some issues with her right foot. However, after receiving treatment and taking a few practice jumps, she regained confidence and felt prepared to proceed.

After notching back-to-back wins in the two events, Paulding feels accomplished but also prepared to further step up her game.

“I feel like it did boost my confidence, in a sense, but I never want to get big-headed because you can always have your downfall day,” said Paulding. “But it did give me a boost about being consistent. I’m getting better each day, and I can see my progress going.”

Looking ahead, Paulding is aiming toward the goal of hitting new personal records and finding more consistency to further boost her confidence and trust in herself.

“Every time I achieve something, I never try to be big-headed because that can always be taken away from you,” said Paulding. “I just know for next time I need to adjust and work harder to keep the same momentum, consistency, and reach the next level I’m trying to get to.”

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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