Finding his footing

Malaki Connella dips across the finish line at a track meet against Central, leaving his opponents behind in his dust.

Photo by Jennifer Biberston
Malaki Connella dips across the finish line at a track meet against Central, leaving his opponents behind in his dust.

DALLAS — Watching an athlete transform entirely from one season to the next is exciting, especially from a coach’s perspective.

It’s why Dallas High School head track and field coach Bill Masai chose Malaki Connella to represent the boy’s team as the Itemizer-Observer 2018 Track Athlete of the Year.

“Malaki is a driven but quiet athlete who just comes to compete everyday,” Masai said. “He has grown a lot from his sophomore year, and his success this year has really fueled his fire to become great. I think the biggest difference from last year is the excitement he has with the realization that he’s the guy to beat now and has stepped up to that pressure.”

His sophomore year, Connella said he won a few races here and there, but overall his season wasn’t anything special. This season, however, winning became a regular thing.

“It was a pretty good season for me, better than normal,” Connella said. “I remember last year I didn’t really win much, but this season it became sort of the norm for me. I faced some competition in a few invitationals, but other than that I did pretty good.”

He also won first place in the 100- and 200-meters race at the District Track Meet, and was the highest scoring track athlete of the meet.

“I also broke the conference meet record, which was pretty cool as well,” Connella said.

It was at the state track meet at Hayward Field that he said he found himself most challenged, taking fifth place in the boy’s 100, clocking in at 11.12.

Fifth place was not where he wanted to be in the final race of the season.

“I don’t think my mind was there,” he said. “I think I had the wrong mind set. My brain was kind of scattered; it was just different for me to be in that type of environment. It didn’t go as I planned, but I still have next year.”

This year’s state meet was Connella’s first experience at that level of competition, where all of the state’s best athletes race against one another for a shot at state champion.

“(The competition) was more intimidating,” he said.

Next year, he said he plans to do better, with numerous goals already in mind.

“I definitely wanna dip under the 11’s,” he said, “(and) take first in state for the 100 and 200. I really wanna try out the 400-meters too, see how I do in that.”

Connella has been running track and field since sixth grade, which is when he said his dad encouraged him to try it out.

It was a sport that stuck, finding his place in the 100, 200, the 4x100, and the 4x400-meters.

“I ended up being pretty good at it, so I just stuck with it,” he said. “I love that I’m good at it, and it’s really fun to compete and race other people. It’s just fun to me.”

On top of track and field, Connella also plays soccer on the Dragons boy’s soccer team, and if he’s being honest, Connella says his first love is soccer.

“I have a lot more passion for soccer; I’ve been playing my whole life, so I think my heart’s in soccer a lot more,” he said.

But either way, both sports are something he said he would be interested in pursuing in college.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.