HAMMOND | Growing up in Calumet City, Asya Hobbs was a dancer, not a participant in team sports.
Although her mother was a cheerleader and gymnast, Hobbs’ father was a musician, which led the only child into dancing from age 6 through her eighth-grade year.
When she finally tried sports at Trinity Lutheran in Lansing, she found her three loves -- volleyball, basketball and track -- and realized that the latter was probably her best shot for a scholarship. However, the current Bishop Noll junior was inexperienced and at the back of the pack in her races.
She was again watching the backs of competitors’ elbows last spring following a surgery that rendered her out of shape for the first time in years.
Now that low point of her career, as well as the rival competition, is behind her now. The reigning sectional champion in the high jump is ready to follow up a breakout basketball season with a big year on the track. Coach Savannah Hauter has fine-tuned the details of Hobbs’ jumps to prepare her to compete with the area’s best all spring.
“Right now I’m getting my confidence level up, and I just really want to get better,” Hobbs said. “Slowly but surely I know what I have to do. There are girls out there that are better than me, and I have to work hard.”
The 5-foot-8 three-sport athlete for Noll can jump. Now she’s ready for the leap.
“When I saw her over the summer, I saw that she had the look of an athlete,” Bishop Noll coach Karl Repay said. “She’s not a little kid anymore. She’s been putting in work in the weight room, and it’s been paying off.”
Hobbs’ trajectory after her freshman year, when she qualified for the regional in the high jump and 200, and helped Noll win the GSSC title, was through the ceiling. However, that’s where she was looking as she gasped for air following indoor races last March.
Her adenoids (the tonsils’ neighbors) had swelled, constricting her breathing. She had doctor-suggested surgery to remove them and missed a few weeks of the season.
“When I came back I could breathe, but I wasn’t as fast,” Hobbs said. “I really had to work hard to make up for being out. It was hard to take (losing races).”
Despite the midseason swoon, Hobbs won the high jump at the Highland Sectional last spring.
Although she didn’t fare well at the regional, she watched Stephanie Rarick long jump her way to state, Noll’s first qualifier since 2008.
“When I watched (Rarick) at regionals, it showed that she gave everything she had to get to state,” Hobbs said. “I took that to mean never say never, even if it’s your last jump of your senior season.”
At the Hobart Little 5 this past weekend Hobbs tied Hobart’s Kara Cooke for the long jump title, then ran second in the 200 and third in the 100.
“She’s laid-back with a dry sense of humor,” Repay said, “but when that gun’s about to fire, the competitive side comes out, and it’s time to go to work.”
The girl ahead of her in both sprints is someone who considers Hobbs a role model.
Teammate Shana Cooper has been running track since she was 8 years old, and the freshman from Hammond has given Hobbs the competitive spark to avoid complacency this season.
“Asya is older, and I look up to her because she’s done this,” Cooper said. “She helps me get better.”
Cooper’s mother, Sharon, is founder and president of the No Limits Track Club in Hammond, with nearly 40 child members. Shana has countless AAU accolades.
“I want to go to state this year,” Shana Cooper said. “If I make that goal, I’ll surprise a lot of people. Mainly I want to surprise myself.”