Silan Ayyildiz has come a long way in a short time, and she came a long way to do that. The middle-distance runner for South Carolina track and field is a native of Istanbul, Turkey, where she was a Turkish champion, and after arriving on campus for the 2023 spring semester, she recently won the 1500-meter race at the SEC Outdoor championships and looks to carry that over to the upcoming NCAA meets.
“During indoor season, I was ready physically, but I wasn’t ready mentally,” said Ayyildiz, a sophomore who is studying sport and entertainment management. “When I finished (at SEC Outdoors), I was really happy because I worked so hard. I was so stressed before the race because there are really good competitors at SECs!
“When I was at the Turkish Championships, it was easier. Everyone is so fast in America. The SEC is the best conference. That is what I had heard. My competitors were so fast! You have to train more and more if you want to win.”
For those not familiar, running the 1500-meter race means you’re basically sprinting for a mile, and she did that in four minutes and 17 seconds.
“The 1500 is really so hard,” said Ayyildiz who started running competitively while in middle school and her coach wanted her to focus on that event. “You have to be fast, and you have to have endurance training. I have hard workouts three times per week.”
That includes numerous sprints ranging from 400 to 800 meters in each workout.
As you might imagine, getting from Turkey to South Carolina isn’t your typical recruiting trip. She met Gamecock assistant coach Andrew Allden in 2021 while competing in Estonia at the U23 European World Championships.
“He wanted me to come here then, but I wasn’t sure because it’s a completely different country and a different culture,” Ayyildiz said. “I thought it was too far from home, so I didn’t come in 2021. In 2022, I wanted to talk to Coach Allden and see if he still wanted me. I talked with my family, and they were OK for me to come here.”
Part of her change of heart came from the difficulty she had in training in Turkey, where she had to travel two hours each way every day to train.
“I decided to come here because the training and the education would both be very good,” Ayyildiz said. “So, it’s really good to be here for athletics and academics. I really miss my family, but when I was in Turkey, I was always traveling for training because it was far away.”
Being far from home…
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