Central Elgin Titan track star Tayah DeSousa heads to Long Beach university,
for sprints, hurdles, long jump, while studying criminal justice
March 28th, 2021
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - Tayah DeSousa is taking her track spikes to the bright lights of the City of Angels.
The Grade 12 student athlete at Central Elgin Collegiate, will head to California (CAL) State University Long Beach in Los Angeles this August on scholarship.
De Sousa will be focusing on hurdles, sprints, long jump and training for multi event competitions such as the pentathlon, while studying criminal justice.
Long Beach is a NCAA Division One school in the Big West Conference, with sports teams known as The Beach.
A strong and constant interest in De Sousa led by Long Beach director of track and field Andy Sythe, was a factor in her decision.
"Between their really good criminal justice program and really good (track) team it drew me to them," said De Sousa. "We were talking and it was a good connection right off the bat. I felt they put in the most effort in recruiting me. They were trying to connect with me every week. They told me a lot about their school and a lot about their team."
There are almost as many students at Long Beach as residents in St. Thomas, but attending a populous university was on DeSousa's mind.
"I was looking for a bigger school. I wanted to experience something different, something bigger. I grew up in a small town and my high school is fairly small," DeSousa explained. "This will be my first time away from home for an extended period of time."
The daughter of Stephanie and Markus DeSousa and sister to younger siblings, Taylor, Ava and Anya, Tayah will graduate as one of the CECI Titans' most decorated track and field athletes.
Despite a high school career cut short because of the pandemic, losing both of her senior years, DeSousa has many achievements.
In Grade 10, DeSousa won the OFSAA junior girls' gold medal for the 80-metre hurdles, in a personal best (PB) time of 11.43 seconds. Her victory was by more than three-tenths of a second and not far off the OFSAA record of 11.24 seconds. DeSousa had the best heat time of 11.57 seconds.
A year earlier DeSousa just missed the podium finishing fourth in both the novice girls' 80-metre hurdles and long jump.
"I'd say the OFSAA gold would be one of my best accomplishments, as well, as my National silver. Those two would be the main ones."
The National silver was for the under-18 women's 100-metre hurdles, at the 2019 Legion outdoor track and field championships, in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Twice, DeSousa was a double gold medalist at the Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association (WOSSAA) track and field championships, winning long jump and the 80-metre hurdles. In Grade 10, DeSousa set the Thames Valley Region Athletics (TVRA) meet record in the hurdles, at 11.66 seconds.
DeSousa also ran the 100 metres, with a best result of a seventh place at the 2019 OFSAA West regional meet. That same year, DeSousa won the the 80-metre hurdles (11.67 sec.) and placed second in long jump (5.01m).
In recent years DeSousa has trained for and entered multi event competitions, including taking home a silver medal (3060 points) in the under-18 women's indoor pentathlon (60-metre hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put, 800 metres), at the 2019 Athletics Ontario Combined events indoor championships.
DeSousa has come a long way since first exploring track and field while a student at Forest Park elementary school. All along the way has been St. Thomas Legion Club coach Harry Stantsos.
"I've been with Harry for seven years," DeSousa said. "He's made me in to the athlete I am now, with the help of my parents and teammates."
Stantsos recalls first meeting DeSousa while she was with a club in London, when the St. Thomas coach gave a few tips on technique for the hurdles. A conversation with DeSousa's dad prompted a move to her hometown club.
"She was a little tooth pick," said Stantsos with a laugh. "Now she's going to university. Seven years, I can't believe it. From the first time to what she is doing right now, the changes and development about her is amazing. She always works hard and tries to get better every time. She listens. She's a great athlete to coach, just a delight to be in our group. A good person for other athletes to be around."
Stantsos says Long Beach will quickly realize what he and fellow St. Thomas athletes have grown to know about DeSousa.
"She has the spark. She has heart. She's feisty. They'll (Long Beach) like that in her. She's happy with PBs, but with her times and her jumps, she knows she can do better. You can see it in her eyes. She's stubborn, but that's good for a sprinter, hurdler, long jumper. She wants to get better. The next time out she wants to get better.
"I have no doubt in mind she'll do well."
DeSousa points to St. Thomas teammates Bailey Couch, Michael Roth and Kyra Vellinga, her closest training partner, as inspiring.
"I've been friends with Mike for as long as I can remember. We've been really supportive of each other and pushing each other."
DeSousa may be leaving for the California sun, sand and surf, but not without memories of being a Titan.
"All of my school events. My school has a lot of spirit. We have a lot of spirit days and my school runs a lot of events and they are all really fun. I will remember all of those."
DeSousa was also on the Titans' junior girls' basketball team that won WOSSAA in 2018.
Her interest in criminal justice may have started during Grade seven, when DeSousa was St. Thomas Chief of Police for the day.
"I remember they put on a mock crime for me (that DeSousa had to solve). Another part was eating lunch with all of the officers. That was fun," recalled DeSousa. "When younger I was really set on taking law. I wanted to be a lawyer. When I entered high school it kind of shifted. Same kind of field, but different direction."
DeSousa will continue to train with St. Thomas Legion until leaving for the west coast.
"She had good competition in 2019 and
2020 indoors, but this past year (2020) we didn't
have the chance to show what she can do. She had no
school or club meets," said Stantsos. "We have this
summer before she goes to school and we'll help her
Long Beach has several well known alumni such as actor-comedian Steve Martin, director Steven Spielberg, singers Karen and Richard Carpenter, director Chris Carter (X-Files), baseball players Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria and Jason Giambi, golfer Mark O'Meara, two-time Super Bowl champ Terrell Davis and three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, in beach volleyball.
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