It’s all about staying focused and, most importantly, not tripping.
Brooklyn Tech junior Aziza Chigatayeva has done her best to do both this season, zeroing in on every obstacle in front of her as she competes in the 2000-meter steeplechase.
Chigatayeva hasn’t tripped yet, clinching a victory at the city championship meet in May and earning a berth in the state track and field championships in Binghamton this weekend.
“It played out really smoothly,” Chigatayeva said of her performance during the season. “I had a good result there against the people that were in my race, then I kind of understood that I had to push for a good time once I got to cities. That was my goal.”
Chigatayeva ran the best steeplechase time in the city this spring, finishing in 6 minutes, 58.60 seconds at the borough championships, nearly 30 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. She finished first in the city championship as well, and while it wasn’t her best time — 7 minutes, 5.49 seconds — it was more than enough to leave the rest of the field in the dust.
The junior standout credits her success to pre-race focus, refusing to let anything — not the noise, the expectations or even the other athletes — distract her from her goal. Chigatayeva wants to win, and has decided the best way to do that is to stare straight ahead and run.
“It’s mainly just staying focused,” she said. “You can kind of get carried away with the noise and the challenges and you have to remember that there are things in your way once you start running.”
Chigatayeva didn’t immediately hit her stride in the steeplechase when she joined the Engineers track and field team, but after competing in the event for the past three years, she’s convinced she made the right decision.
“I don’t have much as speed as other runners,” she said of her choice to run steeplechase. “I do, however, have a lot of endurance and strength. That’s really important in the steeplechase and that’s kind of where I level out with other runners who may be faster than me, but don’t have as much strength.”
Chigatayeva also competed at the state championship meet last season, but, as a sophomore, she wasn’t quite ready to take that next big step in her track-and-field career.
“I didn’t really expect to go [to the state meet] last year,” she said. “that was something I enjoyed, but wasn’t quite ready for.”
This year, Chigatayeva will be joined by teammate Kino Cheltenham, who will compete in the 400-meter dash. The steeplechase specialist has got her sights set on finishing with a top time.
“I’m a lot more confident this time around,” she said. “This season I’m ready to stand on the [winners’] podium at the state meet.”