Laila Payne poses on the field
12 May 2023: Laila Payne poses after winning gold in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 41.96 Credit: Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender

The Carnegie Vanguard track & field program began in 2019, but due to COVID-19, 2021 was their first true season. However, in two short years of competition to school crowned its first UIL State gold medalist in 2023. Her name is Layla Payne, and she won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 41.96.

Carnegie Vanguard is a magnet GT program where the focus is primarily on academics. The school does participate in six UIL sporting events – volleyball, tennis, baseball, cross country, soccer and track & field – but to only minor success.

That is, until Payne’s state victory.

“She’s the only athlete we’ve had at Carnegie to make it to state so far,” said Carnegie Vanguard girls track coach Jamie Ford. “We’re growing as an athletic program, but we’re just not known for it. Having Layla as part of this program not only expands what Carnegie can offer but also shows that you can be a well-rounded athlete as well as a scholar. So, I think she just sets the bar real high.”

Payne comes from a family of runners. Both her parents were involved in summer track, but it was her mother who specialized in the 400-meter hurdles while in college who encouraged the Carnegie Vanguard sophomore to get involved in the sport.

“My ex-husband and I both ran summer track, so it was inevitable that our kids were probably going to run track,” Latosha Lewis Payne said. “Everybody assumed that she was going to run hurdles because I did. But it wasn’t until her freshman year that she actually said on her own that she’d like to run hurdles.”

Payne began running the 400-meter and 200-meters with Track Houston when she was 8 years old. However, it wasn’t until her freshman year that she began running hurdles.

“I honestly felt behind because everybody had already developed their hurdle technique and my hurdle technique wasn’t up to the standards of other people. I’m still working on that to make sure I can get to where I need to be in the coming years,” Payne said.

“She works really hard in practice. I hope she continues to progress. She’s a very competitive, quiet young lady, who doesn’t say much. She just lets her actions speak on the track,” Track Houston coach William Valerie said.

Last season Payne made it to regionals but was unable to advance. This season, still working on her technique, Payne ran 41.96 and took first place in the UIL 5A 300-meter hurdles.

“It means a lot to me, honestly. I know there’s a lot that I can improve,” Payne said.

Laila Payne

Class: 2025

Twitter: @lailapayne2025

IG: @lailapayne2025

Event: 100-meters, 300-meter hurdles

Height & weight: 5-feet-3, 115 pounds

Runners she studies: Cindy McLaughlin, Sha’Carri Richardson

Status: Uncommitted

Favorite artists: Beyoncé, SZA

Favorite subject: History

Hobby: Dancing (Jazz, Hip-Hop)

  • Laila Payne jumps a hurdle during a track meet
  • Laila Payne jumps a hurdle during a track meet
  • Laila Payne jumps a hurdle during a track meet
  • Laila Payne jumps a hurdle during a track meet

I’m originally from Kansas. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in communication studies. Shortly after moving to Houston in 2007, I began doing photography. I covered cy fair sports...