Just days before the start of the 2016-2017 school year on Monday, August 22, and right in the middle of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Oakland Unified School District swore in a new police officer with a remarkable athletic history and connection.
Officer Sharon Ayala, 29, competed at the 2012 London Olympics in the hammer throw for Team Mexico. The two-time All American from Fresno State University was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, and holds the Bulldogs' school record (throwing 216 feet) and for Mexico.
"It takes a lot of effort, a lot of determination. I had this vision in my head of the Olympics and that's what drove me,” she said.
The hammer throw was not Ayala’s first choice. She started with the shot put and throwing the discus. But in college, she was introduced to the hammer throw, and she took to it immediately.
In 2012, Ayala tried out for Team USA and the Mexico team because she has dual citizenship. She decided to go with the Mexican team because she was ranked higher: No. 1 instead of No. 5. And that’s what took her to London.
"It's incredible. It's an unreal feeling being surrounded by such high caliber athletes. It's a breathtaking experience," Ayala said. "My nerves were all over the place."
Ayala didn’t do as well as she would have liked in London - but it’s a memory that she will cherish forever. Now, she has brought her world-class work ethic to help protect the Oakland Schools community.
“I’m excited to be in Oakland at OUSD and I’m looking forward to meeting the kids while I’m working,” Ayala said. “If I can do this, you can too - and that’s the message I want to share with the kids.”
Ayala adds she wants to help coach Oakland’s track and field athletes in her spare time.
"Having that type of experience, why not share that knowledge,” she said.