Before Jayla White got on the bus to Halifax to compete in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), her mother jokingly told her to bring home some medals. The 16-year-old athlete heeded her mother’s words and racked up a handful in track-and-field sports.
White brought home the gold in the 14U javelin, a bronze each in the 800M and the 150M 14U, as well as winning fifth place in the 14U high jump.
White has been athletic from a young age, according to her mother, Robin Marquis, participating in running events at the age of four.
“Through elementary school she played soccer and participated in Mohawk Miles and Racers for Health every year, receiving medals, and was the top scorer on her soccer team,” said Marquis.
Asked what motivates her to compete, White said that she has always been competitive and driven to perfect her skills.
“I push myself in my sports because I know I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t play my hardest,” she said, adding she had a lot of fun at the track meet in Halifax.
“When it was time to leave I was so sad because I made friends, met so many people, and had to say goodbye.”
White’s mother expressed how proud she was of her daughter making the track team, though she said she was sad she couldn’t attend with her daughter.
“I believed in her and I knew she would do well,” said Marquis.
Emphasizing the importance of supporting children in their athletic aspirations, Marquis said the advice she would give to other parents is to always encourage their young ones.
“Show up for them because growing up can be hard, and sports are so good for their self-esteem, confidence, and they make so many friends,” she said. “One day they are toddlers playing lacrosse, soccer, or racing and in no time they are going to NAIG.”
Looking toward the future, White said she is already looking forward to NAIG in 2027 and that she is grateful for all the people who helped organize it and the coaches who help make the experience better for their athletes.
Bringing home a gold medal and placing well in a track meet that sees athletes from across Turtle Island is a feat, but White said it’s important to remember to have fun and enjoy the sport they play.
“Always remember that it is okay to lose – do not give up,” she said. “It is also important to have good sportsmanship and be respectful to other players.”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, July 28, in issue 32.30 of The Eastern Door.