Hurdles were always Mallory Patino’s forte. Before graduating from Turlock High in 2013, Patino earned a name for herself on the track with three consecutive Central California Conference titles in the 300m hurdles.
It was no surprise then that the former Bulldog became a hurdler when she joined the track and field team at Cal Poly as a preferred walk on. What was surprising, however, was the difficult transition she faced upon finding out that as a collegiate athlete she would be running a longer race in the 400m hurdle event.
“It’s one of the only events on the track that changes,” Patino said. “I remember just lying on the ground for like 20 minutes (after my first race), asking what I got myself into.”
But as she had during her time at Turlock, Patino opted to put hard work over excuses as she built up her endurance and confidence with long-distance training regimes. By the end of her freshman season she was a Big West Conference Championships qualifier.
She parlayed her freshman success into a sophomore season that saw her advance into Big West Conference finals and finish eighth overall.
“I worked a lot harder and I knew more about the race, so I came out of freshman season running better than before,” Patino said.
Her sophomore accomplishments weren’t just relegated to conference success, however. Her sophomore personal record was good enough to rank her 10th all-time at Cal Poly in the 400m hurdles which in turn earned her a partial scholarship heading into this season.
“This has been very crazy for me; I never expected this,” Patino said. “Now I’m working really hard because I’m within reach of a record in college.”
“That was almost more rewarding for me than getting it straight out of high school,” she added. “Performing good enough for my coaches to be like, “Wow, we see you. You’re a part of this team.’ I felt really proud of myself.”
Currently in the middle of the toughest span of preparation and practice for her junior season, Patino is eying a top five all-time ranking for her event as she attempts to both show her coaches her scholarship is well deserved and prove to herself that she can meet her expectations.
As it stands now, Patino is less than one second away from eighth all-time and two to three seconds away from breaking into the top three. She’s also a hair away from besting her sophomore performance with what she hopes will be a regional qualification.
“I was one second away exactly from going to regionals, and that’s pretty doable for me. Every year that I’ve ran since high school I’ve dropped time, without fail, at least a second,” Patino said. “So I really hope regionals will happen this year and maybe by my senior year finals, but that’s definitely a couple years away.”