Starting her track and field journey in the sixth grade, Aria Pearce knew she loved running. Transitioning from being one of the speediest athletes on her town's boys' flag football team, Aria quickly became a beacon of inspiration for many
Diving into track meets, Aria became a rising star, defeating many formidable competitors some of whom were two years her senior.
SportsEngine and TrueSport sat down with Aria as she was nominated for this month's Athlete of the Month. TrueSport Ambassador and Team USA Weightlifter Abby Raymond has the story on what has to be one of our most memorable interviews to date.
Abby: "So when I watch your YouTube videos, you're way out front, and everyone seems far behind! Does it blow your mind when you cross the finish line so fast?"
Aria: "I always think, like during the race, that they're much closer than they are. Most of those races, they're older than me."
In order for Aria to find an appropriate competition that fits her goals, she chooses to compete outside of her school as an unattached athlete at college meets. This past April, Aria made history as the fastest 100m dash for a middle schooler at the Kansas Relays (WIBW news).
Abby: "What do you do to train for your races? Is there anything outside of running that helps you prep?"
Aria: "Early junior high, I could officially start lifting weights and it's typically short and intense but lots of repetitions."
Aria's dad, Nathan Pearce, who also joined our interview, coached her from a young age. He notes that because of the smaller town they lived in, they had limited options. Nathan took it upon himself to participate in training from USATF.
Abby: "Because you grew up in a smaller town, do you feel you faced more adversity or received more support?"
Aria: "I think it was a benefit to grow up in a smaller town. Everyone here is incredibly supportive."
Aria grew up in Wallace, Kansas, initially only having 14 or 15 students in her class. The family recently made the move to the Rock Creek area last summer.
Abby: "That had to be incredibly intimidating going from a smaller class to competing against these larger groups of athletes. What do you tell yourself, or what would you recommend to someone facing a similar situation?"
Aria: "Just believe in yourself, don't doubt yourself, and always speak positively to yourself. I've gotten into the habit of marking motivational quotes in my phone that I go over before a race."
Abby: "That's amazing. Do you have a favorite quote at the moment?"
Aria: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
Abby: "I like that because you can always change your attitude and take things head-on. Developing that mindset early on will make you such an incredible person."
Abby: How have you handled surfing the waves? Or what has helped you calm your nerves at these larger meets?"
Aria: "Getting exposed to more meets and meeting college athletes has really helped me shake off the nerves. And just taking a second to breathe."
Nathan notes that compared to other athletes he's coached; Aria is missing a piece of fear most athletes have when she enters the competition. He stated when she had her first meet at Stanford, she was nervous, but at the end of the day, adrenaline took over, and she hit PRs.
Nathan: "She was disappointed she didn't win, but what she didn't realize is, at the time, she was a 13-year-old girl racing against 20-22-year-olds. And that's just an incredible feat."
"I don't care if she wins races; I just like how other girls look at her as an inspiration and how she can interact with older girls and carry herself. That's what I am most proud of."
Leaving a Legacy
Abby: "What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for the next generation?"
Aria: "The legacy I want to leave behind most of all is to inspire younger girls to believe that they can do anything they can put their minds to."
Aria continues to push the envelope, winning the 100m and 200m dash at the 2023 Nike Nationals this year. She looks forward to what the 2024 season holds for her.