Ayana Fields fell in love with track when she joined a youth track club at age 6. For her twin brother Ryan, love of the sport was a little bit more delayed. He started competing at 13.
Ryan recalled what it was like to run his first race, the 110-meter hurdles, against runners with actual years on the track.
“I came in dead last,” he said. “I know these guys had more experience than me, but I fell in love with it and it was fun.”
That enjoyment of the sport took the pair through high school at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and brought them to Cal Poly Pomona, where both are among the nation’s fastest in NCAA Division II track and field.
And even as they prepare to cross the stage on May 21 and 22 to receive their bachelor’s degrees —Ryan’s in computer information systems and Ayana’s in kinesiology — they won’t be leaving either Cal Poly Pomona or track and field in the dust just yet.
Both plan to stay at the university to earn master’s degrees. Ayana, an aspiring physical therapist, will pursue a graduate degree in exercise physiology. Ryan plans to pursue a master’s degree in information security.
Although they are soon-to-be graduate students, they are considered sophomores in athletics eligibility because they lost two years of competition due to COVID-19.
“I’m going to feel like the old man on the team,” Ryan said.
The Race to Cal Poly Pomona
While the twins have a close relationship and share the same passion for track and field, their original plan didn’t include coming to the same university.
After all, they came in the world on the same day at nearly the same time, with Ryan, now 6’2”, besting Ayana, who stands 5’2”, by just one minute. In high school, they shared all the same classes and sat next to each other because the seating was arranged in alphabetical order.
Assistant track coach Darrell Smith Jr. first went to recruit Ryan out of Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and discovered that Ayana was equally impressive.
Now, the team captains live in the University Village but definitely not in the same apartment.
Track and field head coach Chris Bradford said they are both tremendously talented and assets to the team in many ways.
“They are really humble and polite,” Bradford said. “They have great heads on their shoulders.”
They have won countless CCAA athletes of the week awards. Ayana is a five-time All-American and a two-time All-American this indoor season. Ryan went to the nationals for the Broncos in 2019, and he competed at the junior championships and finished third in the nation in 2019.
“They are great leaders, but they are so much beyond just being really great athletes,” he said. “They are really great people to be around, and they are so happy to be a part of the CPP community.”
According to Ayana, having a twin does have its advantages, despite Ryan’s obsession with video games.
“It’s just having someone there, that person who always cheers for you,” she said. “You feed off of that energy.”
And energy they need. Ayana runs the 100, 200, and 400 races, as well as the 4×400 and 4×100 relays, and the 200 is her favorite, clocking in with a personal best of 23.84 seconds. At the 2022 CCAA Championships on May 5-7, she won all five events and was named Track Athlete of the Meet and High Point Scorer.
Ryan, who is a five-time CCAA Athlete of the Week, runs the 400 hurdles and 110 hurdles, as well as the 4×400 relay. He also ranks in the Top 5 in his two individual events in the CCAA.
Ryan has Olympic dreams and might go professional. Ayana says she’s living in the moment for now.
“If the opportunity comes through and I qualify for the Olympics, I will pursue that,” she said. “Right now, I am focused on dropping my times and improving my race technique.”
The Fields come from a family of athletes. Their mom, Teresa, played college basketball at USC. Their older brother played basketball and baseball at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, and an older sister also played basketball growing up. Their little brother, who is in 7th-grade, now plays basketball as well.
Their mom has filmed every meet since they were children, so cheering for one another is in the blood.
Headed for the Finish Line
So, what do they admire about each other most?
“How humble she is,” said Ryan. “I know for a fact that she knows she is one of the best sprinters on the team. She doesn’t boast. She is not afraid to speak out though. It’s also how she leads by example. She’s very strong, very stoic and studious. She knows how to manage her time well. When she starts something, she has the strength to finish it. She has a strong spirit.”
Ayana has seen her brother grow as an athlete and as a leader.
“He is always working hard and being the life of the team,” she said. “He is always encouraging everyone. He is really good at what does. He has come a long way.”
Besides school and sports, both of the Fields work on campus, Ayana at a campus eatery and Ryan in the athletics office, doing mostly ticketing at sporting events.
Both also serve on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which provides a voice for student-athletes in the CCAA and NCAA. Committee members lead enrichment and community outreach activities, including a recent event at Kellogg Polytechnic Elementary School in Pomona.
It’s all about learning and growing for the Fields, who have learned lessons from track and field that they are applying in their everyday life.
“In track, there will always be a bad meet. Do not let it affect the rest of the races,” Ryan said. “You’ll feel like you failed, but that’s not how you look at failure. It’s about how you take that failure, learn from it and develop, how you get back up. If you mess up on a hurdle, there are still more hurdles to go.”
For Ayana, racing and life is all about staying focused and running through the tape at the finish line.
“Ignore the negativity around you, whether it is coming from someone else or yourself,” she said. “Focus on your race, not somebody else’s.”