12-year-old track star goes viral, gains attention from ESPN


PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A 12-year-old track star is showing off her speed in a TikTok video that has gone viral, racking up millions of views.

The viral video shows Jaiya Patillo, a middle schooler and Junior Olympian, on a treadmill sprinting at 17 miles per hour.

Kevin Pontillo, Jaiya’s father, said his daughter was training at No Name Athletics in Ohio with her coach, Skyy Simmons. He said Jaiya seemed to be jogging at 15 mph, so her trainer increased the speed to 17 mph. He said she could have reached the capacity of 18, but stopped for safety reasons.

Simmons posted the video of Jaiya on his TikTok account, and it garnered thousands of views. Jaiya’s athletic ability even caught the attention of ESPN. The sports network posted the video on its TikTok account, and it spread like wildfire, gaining more than 40 million views in just days.

“It feels pretty cool because I didn’t think that ESPN would notice the video or it would blow up either. The first time I checked, it had 2 million and just kept getting more,” said Jaiya.

The 200- and 400-meter sprinter said she was a little apprehensive about getting on the quick-moving treadmill. “When I first got there, I was pretty scared,” she said.

But she conquered her fear in record time.

However, shattering records is nothing new for Jaiya. She has been running most of her life, racking up numerous medals and wins along the way. The nine-time Junior Olympian isn’t without a great support system, her parents are cheering her on at each practice and race.

“She works very hard and she gets out there and she shines,” said Sheree Patillo, Jaiya’s mother. “Nine times out of 10, Jaiya comes out on top, but most importantly, she is a prayer warrior, a believer, on another level for her age and she remains grounded. We are so proud of her.”

Jaiya’s father said they use track to teach her principles of life, adding that he first noticed his daughter’s talent while she was just a toddler.

For Sheree Patillo, Petersburg, Virginia, is home. The active Air Force service member is currently stationed in Ohio, but she was born and raised in Central Virginia. Jaiya’s grandparents, Bishop Herman Crockett Jr. and Martha Crockett, also live in Petersburg.

“We are so excited to see our precious little granddaughter running so fast and so swiftly,” said Herman Crockett, who has been a local preacher for decades. “I just pray that she continues on the trajectory that she’s on and I believe that God is going to take her higher and higher.”

Martha Crockett said she’s especially proud of her granddaughter because she puts God in her running.

“Before I run my race, I think about the scripture Phillipians 4:13. That I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and that normally gives me the strength to run all the way through,” Jaiya said.

Jaiya’s parents say they are grateful for the outpouring of support.

“Jaiya has definitely made our Petersburg family and Richmond very proud,” Sheree Patillo said.

Right now, Jaiya is training for a national competition to be held in August, but she says her dream is to run in the 2024 Olympics.

“People are encouraging me to keep going, and it’s really nice people are supporting me through it,” she said.

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