Jayna Dias took a circuitous route to track and field.
It was, though, always in the DNA.
Dias, an Oswego East sophomore, did not try track and field until she arrived in high school. But she's well-versed in the sport.
Her dad, Joseph Dias, competed for Senegal in the 400-meter relay at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. He also competed in the 1987 World Championships. Jayna related that the Dias household does have his medals and a plaque in the house.
"It was weird, I didn't do track at first, but we always just kind of knew about my dad," Dias said. "I would bring it up casually. People would ask if my dad was an Olympian and I'd say 'Yea.'"
Dias' older sister ran track in middle school, but Jayna's first athletic endeavour was in gymnastics.
She started when she was 5 years old, and eventually progressed to a Level 8. Eventually, it wasn't a fit anymore.
"I was going 20 hours a week, I wasn't really feeling my coaches, wasn't making the progress I wanted, either," Dias said. "It's a sport that requires a lot of commitment. Going into high school I didn't seem to connect anymore. I knew I had to do something else."
Dias tried track at Oswego East, and gravitated toward the sprints and the jumps. The jumps, in particular, proved a seamless transition for a girl with a gymnastics background.
"It's a lot like the vault in gymnastics," Dias said. "Vault is basically a giant runway, and you jump on the board. You need the power and the push that gymnastics taught me. You're just landing in a pit of sand."
Dias took fourth in the long jump at sectionals as a freshman, and won the long jump at the Plainfield South Invitational in February during indoor season.
During spring break, she traveled back to Senegal with her family to visit family. There, she had the opportunity to train at the country's national training center.
"I went to the track that my dad trained at, with the coaches," Dias said. "That was a cool experience. We were running on the beach, at the zoo."
The training center was quite modest.
"It was way less than we have at [Oswego East,]," Dias said. "The track was out of shape and stuff."
Dias soared past her lifetime personal bests at sectionals last week. She went 17 feet, 10 inches to win the long jump, a foot better than her previous best, and 36 feet, 0.25 inches, over a foot better than her prior best.
"It was the best that I possibly could have asked for," Dias said.
Dias leads the group from Oswego East and Oswego who will compete at the state meet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, starting with Friday's preliminaries.
East also has its 1,600 relay, and Abby Flammersfeld in the 800.
Oswego has sophomore Jenelle Rogers in the high jump, twin sister Jennah Rogers in the 100 hurdles, Claire Barenie in the pole vault, Grace Pagone in the 3,200, Isabelle Christiansen in the 1,600 and the 3,200 relay.