Jaiden Stokes is always on the run.
The senior sprinter for the Westerville North girls track and field team always seems to be in motion, whether it's juggling multiple sports during seasons or finding time to hold down a job during her fast-paced life.
Running, though, is Stokes' passion. Her talent on the track -- as well as her hard work in the classroom -- is why she is heading to Brown University, an Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island.
"I like staying busy and doing a lot of things," Stokes said. "When you are in high school, you should be trying as many things as you can to see what you like. That's the time to do it.
"You can be on the 'In the Know' (scholastic) team or in theater or whatever. It's a great environment (at North) because the coaches, especially (cross country and track) coach (Johnny) Jackson, encourage you to do as much as possible. We're all runners at heart, but we're also more than that."
Stokes has competed in the 100 meters (personal-record 12.54 seconds), 200 (personal-record 25.61) and 400 (personal-record 59.24) as well as on the 1,600 relay for the Warriors. At Brown, she will compete in the 100 and 200 and on the 400 and 800 relays.
Last spring, Stokes was a Division I regional qualifier in the 100 and 400.
"Jaiden puts her heart into everything she does, she's a hard worker and she learns from her mistakes," Jackson said. "She understands failures are just important lessons that she can learn from.
"She has been wanting (to go run track in college). Before she came to North, she said she wanted to run for me and that she wanted to run in college. She's had that goal and has put everything she has had to work toward that goal."
In her first three years of high school, Stokes competed in volleyball and cross country in the fall and swimming and diving and indoor track during the winter. She competed in both outdoor track and club volleyball in the spring as a freshman, but focused solely on track the past two years.
Stokes was concentrating on track again this spring, but the Warriors' season ultimately was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"In the fall, I would run cross country from 3-5:30 (p.m.) and then my mom (Jennifer Palla) would come by and bring me dinner before practice started for volleyball," Stokes said. "That would go from 6-9 (p.m.), so we would sit in the parking lot to eat and I would catch up with her before that.
"(As a senior) I only ran track in the fall and indoor track in the winter, so I focused on running and finding the college that was the right fit for me."
Stokes, who has a 4.57 GPA, plans to major in cognitive neuroscience at Brown as part of her pre-med curriculum. She also plans to minor in Spanish.
"I have taken five years of Spanish and I'm taking an (Advanced Placement) test May 22, and if I get a 4 or 5 on it, I will be certified bilingual," Stokes said. "My mom's fiance (Larry Sanchez) is from Cuba and it would be great to be able to speak Spanish with his family. I also worked at Hollister (Co.) in Easton before (the pandemic), and I would work with Spanish-speaking customers when I was there."
Stokes started running track in the seventh grade and fell in love with the sport. Despite losing her senior outdoor season because of the pandemic, she has remained positive.
"(Jackson) has taught me so much, especially in respect to when life gets hard and how to handle it," Stokes said. "Even if I go out and don't have my best race, there is always something that can be learned from it to make you better.
"Just like now, I can always take away a positive outlook and make the best of the situation. Sure, I lost my senior track season, but that has allowed me to work (at Giant Eagle) and save for college. I also have had more time to talk and get ideas from my college coach about what I should be doing to get ready for that. I have found more time to spend with my family and I enjoy that. You have to find ways to look at things with a positive outlook."