Florida track and field triple jumper Alissa Braxton stood in the middle of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center’s court. Her guest appearance away from the track showcased a hidden talent. With her right hand over her heart, she faced the crowd to sing the national anthem before Florida women’s basketball game against Tennessee Feb. 3.
Braxton's captivating vocals resulted in a passionate performance in front of a familiar sea of orange and blue. Braxton excels in both athletics and performing, as well as graphic design.
Braxton comes from a long lineage of powerful and soulful vocalists.
The Braxtons, a collection of five sisters who filled stadiums and venues across the world in the 1990s, set the foundation for one of the best-selling female R&B artists in American history: Alissa’s cousin, Grammy-award-winning singer Toni Braxton.
The talented group became famous for their soothing melodies and high-pitched sound.
As a child, Alissa always enjoyed the opportunity to perform, her father, Dirk Braxton, said. Dirk and Vannessa Braxton, Alissa’s mother, both noticed their youngest child’s urge to venture out and let her voice be heard.
“She would always do solos,” Dirk said. “When we moved to California, we joined a church, and she became the lead at the little kid's choir.”
Off the mic, Alissa did not shy away from being a multi-sport athlete. She watched her father coach her older brothers’ little league baseball and basketball teams, and Alissa played soccer, basketball, baseball and danced.
She finally found her niche, however, while watching her brothers launch themselves into the triple-jump sandpit. Her oldest brother competed in the long and triple jump, and her other brother competed in the high jump. Dirk said she would watch them practice and, afterward, she would jump.
“When I got to middle school, I basically forced my parents to let me do track,” Alissa said.
Dirk is proud of all his daughter has accomplished so far but knows she isn’t done impressing. He’s excited to witness Alissa’s growth during her forthcoming junior year, not just in the sand pit, but through her singing and artwork as well.
Alissa's interest expanded beyond the track once she entered high school. The now-graphic design major explored Photoshop and found a love for digital art.
Vanessa noticed her daughter’s artistic growth and presented her with a challenge: designing the packaging for her vodka company, “Black Momma Vodka.”
“My mom was like, ‘You're really good at this, you need to start making things for me,’” Alissa said.
While progressing as an artist, Alissa made strides in her track and field career. She began to compete in the triple her junior year of high school and broke an 18-year New York state record, making her a highly sought-after college recruit. Schools like UF, Florida State University and Louisiana State University showed interest, but Alissa’s relationships with jumps coach Nic Peterson and head coach Mike Holloway pulled her to Gainesville. Peterson messaged Alissa on Instagram to congratulate her on her early-career record, Dirk said.
Accompanied by her parents and Sargeant, the family dog, Alissa signed to continue her track career and artistic pursuits at UF Nov. 13, 2019.
Alissa made her collegiate debut at the 2021 indoor season opener in Columbia, South Carolina. She competed in four outdoor meets her freshman year, recording a personal record of 19 feet and 5.5 inches in the long jump at the Florida State Relays.
Alissa’s stint was stunted when an ankle injury from the relays rolled over into the beginning of her sophomore campaign. She recovered with an impressive year, highlighted by a new personal best of 13.16 meters/22-5.25 in the triple jump at the LSU Invitational.
The sophomore competed in the triple jump at the SEC Outdoor Championships, catapulting herself 12.56 meters to help the outdoor women’s track and field team win its first conference title in program history. Alissa returned to the sand-pit at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and her 12.83 meter jump in Eugene, Oregon, helped Florida bring home its first outdoor program title.
“I was able to compete, and just push as hard as I can and actually jump, without fear of pain,” Alissa said. “For me to go as far as NCAA, which I didn't even think was gonna happen, is amazing to me.”
Curtis Michaud is a fourth-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications. He specializes in sports and media and would like to continue to provide authentic, thorough, and engaging sport content for all readers. He is an enterprise reporter and lacrosse and track and field writer for The Alligator.