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Aguilar continues pipeline to UC Merced

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

With her family surrounding her, Madera South cross country and track runner Jaydah Aguilar signs her National Letter of Intent to UC Merced in March.


Ever since 2012, the UC Merced Bobcats women’s cross country team has had a runner from Madera South.

Beginning with Sofia Rios, followed by Karina Martinez, Angelica Costilla and, most recently, Maria Aguilar, Madera South colors have been run in UC Merced navy and yellow.

Recent Stallions’ cross county senior Jaydah Aguilar continuesthe successful trend after signing a National Letter of Intent to UC Merced in March.

“There are a few runners that ran for UC Merced,” she said. “I feel that’s good. When I go, I will feel more comfortable. Coach Vincente Velarde is a good coach. He makes me feel comfortable to run for UC Merced. He was telling me that the school is really good. The connections fit really well.”

Aguilar signed before one of the cross country meets in March and it lifted a weight off her shoulders during a difficult time.

“I felt really relieved,” she said. “It was really a stressful time with how everything was. I knew what I was going to do. It took another weight off my shoulder. I started worrying about the rest of my senior year like finals and actually graduating. It was good to get it out of the way so I could focus on my senior year. I was looking forward to college, as well.”

The UC Merced record book is littered with the accomplishments of Rios, Martinez, Costilla and Aguilar and Jaydah Aguilar hopes to continue that trend.

“I think it’s pretty neat that I’m continuing the running legacy,” she said. “I feel some pressure. I have felt a little bit pressured. That also gives me motivation to keep going and keep running. There’s always going to be pressure that have had runners through the UC Merced system. It gives me more motivation than pressure.”

In addition to Velarde, a former Madera Coyotes cross country runner, Aguilar will have some familiar faces, most notably, Maria Aguilar, who will be a senior on this year’s team.

“Maria Aguilar is a very close friend of mine and is a member of the team,” Jaydah said. “She’s given me a lot of advice. She made me feel better and more comfortable about going to UC Merced. I was very scared like any incoming freshman would. Now, I feel very comfortable about being an incoming freshman. With the year and how it’s been, I had a lot of questions and Maria answered them for me.”

Aguilar chose UC Merced over Stanislaus State and Fresno State.

“I chose UC Merced because when I was talking to Coach Velarde, he mentioned my education first,” she said. “He said to always think about education. He said don’t go to a school just because you want to run. Also, think about your education. He said there were way more programs at UC Merced that will help with my career pathway. He thought about the whole picture. He thought about my education, but my running, as well. I felt he cared about everything and I just felt very welcomed.”

Aguilar graduated in June with a 4.0 grade point average. She plans to major in psychology to become an occupational therapist.

“There’s a lot of years in college,” she said.

Aguilar was proud to sign, but was also grateful to even have a season. Although the cross country season as different and short, she was still happy to have one.

“It was definitely different environment with the season because it was so short,” she said. “We didn’t have our offseason like we used to. It was very weird. It’s pretty awesome that we’re going to have our season starting in August. It’s going back to what we call normal. It feels so amazing. I feel blessed we have this again. It was so awful.

“Senior night was great. The coaches and my friends made it very special. Every senior night made it as special as they could.”

Aguilar was also happy about the training and the weather at the time.

“It was amazing training in better weather,” she said. “Since school was online, we had flexible schedules and it wasn’t too hot, which was more amazing. I’m kind of sad we have to go back to the hot weather.”

With COVID and the restrictions it put on athletics, Aguilar was having a tough time adjusting and getting her teammates motivated.

“Being a senior, you want everything to be perfect and there are things you want to do,” she said. “This hits and there’s nothing. I tried to be as motivated as I could be. I was going on my runs and trying everything I could to stay in shape. When everything got shut down again, I felt we weren’t going to have a cross country season or another race. As a senior, I felt like giving up. Then, we heard we were going to have a race in February. I felt like, yeah. There were times I felt unmotivated and felt like wanting to give up. I didn’t and pushed through. My other teammates felt unmotivated. As a senior captain, I tried to get them motivated to have a team. We had more boys than girls this year. We didn’t have a full girls team. I tried to recruit, but with COVID, parents were concerned. We did the best we could with what we got.”

After entertaining thoughts of going to school out of state, much to her parents’ joy, she decided to stay in-state and is only about 45 minutes away.

“At first, I said I wanted to go far and out of state. I probably would have if it was normal circumstances,” she said. “My parents are really happy. My mom wanted me to stay close. My sisters love Merced. It’s kind of like Madera, but it’s bigger. I’m so close to family and friends. I can go home whenever I want, probably on the weekends. I enjoy I’m pretty close to Madera.”

She will live on campus, but can drive home whenever she wants. However, she is looking forward to the on-campus environment.

“I’m living on campus so I will be able to do things on campus,” she said. “Since I’m going to be dorming with teammates, we can bond. They are still building a lot of stuff and it’s still growing.”



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