Crenshaw junior Aammarah Gage competes in track and field and volunteers at Kaiser Permanente (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Crenshaw junior Aammarah Gage is the captain of the Cougars’ track and field team. As she strives to improve her sprinting and hurdling, she learned how to manage the different personalities on the team so they can better themselves.

“Being captain, I always have to help, I gotta lead the warmups and everybody’s talking,” Gage said. “It’s kind of like deciding how to interact with all that so they still feel like this is my team.”

She has learned how to hold her teammates accountable in a way so they will not feel attacked. As she conquered the rigors of developing a leadership style, Gage had to persevere through competing in hurdling events. During meets, there are few athletes who compete in the event, according to Gage.

“I think my biggest problem this year would be a lack of motivation,” Gage said. “In California, when I do hurdles, so far [it’s] normally just been me against the clock. So mentally I’ve had to prepare like … ‘I’m running for me. I’m running to the clock to get a state time.’”

Hurdling is a skill that came naturally to Gage, a personal highlight in her track career was when she competed in a hurdles event when she was in the seventh grade.

“I didn’t have the form or anything, I just like to jump; I’ve done long jump before too,” she said. “My first race, I had no training whatsoever and I got top three … I just continued to do hurdles ever since.”

Along with hurdles, Gage competes in the 4x100m relay and the 200m. She noticed how her running form has improved. She would practice with mini hurdles that are one foot high.

“When I first started, I was kicking those hurdles everywhere,” Gage said. “When you run, your form is important to keep your leg up and straight. Stepping over it, that was the hardest thing but now my form is better so I can still run straight.”

For Gage, being a student athlete means taking on more work. Along with competing and studying, Gage has to also help her siblings. In order to manage her academics, she works on assignments in 15-minute intervals, taking 10-minute breaks to avoid burnout.

“Although all sports are mental and physical, track is extremely mental, but so is writing a five-page essay the night of your meet and continuing five assignments each from a different class and still going to practice,” Gage said.

Along with running track, Gage also competes in volleyball. She also volunteers at Kaiser Permanente by doing clerical tasks and restocking supplies. Gage aspires to be an OB-GYN. Her inspiration to be an OB-GYN sparked when she was reading about different ways Black people were being discriminated against on social media around the time George Floyd was murdered.

“I saw a post and it said that Black women die 300% more during childbirth than anybody else and I was like ‘that’s horrible,’” Gage said. “I don’t know how it got that bad, but I want to help fix that problem specifically.”