Raiya Thomas competes in track to help improve his skills in football (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel

During his time at Crenshaw High School, Raiya Thomas competed in track and field because he wants to get faster and because of the health benefits.

“I just want to be in shape, I like to feel good,” he said. “I don’t like to feel like crap all day and always tired … Running track just feels good.”

Thomas competed in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m, and 4x400m events. When he was younger, he was not fond of competing in the 400m and the 4x400m. Since then, he has learned to tolerate those events.

“Now it’s like it is what it is because I’m already in shape and stuff, the more in shape you are, the easier it gets,” Thomas said. “It’s really not that hard, it’s really one lap. You got to think of it like that.”

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He used the skills he learned in track to help him in football. This past season was his first full season playing on the varsity level as his sophomore and junior years were impacted by COVID-19. Those years taught him the importance of having a strong work ethic.

“You work hard in practice, work hard like you playing the game and then you win on Fridays,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted how competing in track and field can be an asset to football players. Playing football gave him the proper mindset to compete in track.

“Football is already a hard enough sport and I have to have the mindset and discipline to run track, so it helps a lot,” Thomas said.

Thomas began competing in football during his ninth grade year. He never competed in a Pop Warner game but trained with a team prior to high school.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to play football and kept begging my mom to play football,” Thomas said. “I never got to play Pop Warner until eighth grade, but even then I still never got to put on the pads and stuff, just condition with them and practice with them until I went to high school.”

Being a student athlete means dedicating time to competing and learning in the classroom and on the field. He noted that it is also about self-improvement overall.

“You always want to compete because you can learn little stuff. Little things matter,” Thomas said. “Throughout life, you learn stuff from on and off the field … It’s not all about sports, it’s creating you as a man or woman.”

In his favorite class, Thomas learned life skills that will help him with being an adult.

“Sometimes the teacher will teach you about things that the school wont’ teach you about, like trying to buy an apartment,” he said. “We just be having those talks here and there sometimes.”

Outside of his academics and athletics, Thomas enjoys playing video games and creating jewelry. He also helps his younger brother.

“He’s young, he’s like four. I just be helping him throughout the day,” Thomas said. “When he gets hungry or something, I’ll just get him something as a little brother, big brother thing.”