Athlete of the Week: Francisco Casillas

Grade level: SophomoreHometown: Moreno valley, California Major: Liberal arts major High School: Ranch Verde High School

How did you get into Track and Field? I have always played soccer, but I decided to try Cross Country during my freshman year of high school. My junior year I bet my coach that I could sprint the 200 and 400m races, and I ended up coming second in our league in both.

What came after high school? I ended up quitting soccer and running track for Riverside City College, but I didn’t get along with the coach there. I didn’t like his methods, so we ended up getting into arguments and he ended up eventually kicking me off.

What did you do after leaving the Track Team? I didn’t do anything for two years, and I actually was smoking cigarettes for two years, I was at a pack, and then a pack and a half a day.  It was then that I decided I needed to do something. I needed to get out of there; I ended up moving from Moreno Valley to the Westside because my sister convinced me to. I decided I needed to do something to get away from cigarettes, so I decided to run track again.

What do you like about running and track and field? It relieves my stress.

What is your greatest sports memory? Last weekend we had a meet; we were about 30 meters behind and I was the anchor. I ended up catching up to everybody right in the back-stretch, and I ended up flying away from everybody. That’s definitely one of my best memories. Other than that it would be going to state in high school, and then going to the semi-finals and nationals for soccer.

Who has been your biggest influence? My sister, Yannina. Out of everyone I’ve known, she’s gone through the most and has still come out on top. She has shown me that no matter what happens, no matter how fair or unfair life is, you’ve got to play with the cards your dealt and keep on pushing.

If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be? It would definitely be Bruce Lee, because he’s the master of life. He taught me how to relax, how to stop trying to force things, and just go with the flow. Everything about the way he lived, his philosophy and teachings, is just perfect.

Who is your favorite professional athlete? Olympic and World Champion runner Carl Luis.

What is your favorite music? I listen to country, techno, rock, and rap but before my meets I listen to Taking Back Sunday and Pierce the Veil.

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes for races? I like to wear pink when I run.   This year my spikes are pink.  I actually have bright neon pink socks too.  They’re knee high but I don’t think I’m going to wear them this year!

Do you have any pre-race rituals? I always try to talk to other people just to lighten the mood. It gets my mind off of the fact that I have to run a race. It takes the pressure off. I try not to obsess over the race, and I just go out and do my thing. It’s a lot easier to run when you’re not freaking out about stuff, so I just casually have conversations.

Do you follow a strict diet to stay in shape? I eat three meals a day and try to stay away from fast foods.  My diet includes proteins and carbs like meat and pasta..

What advice would you give to someone just starting track and field? I would just tell them that it’s going to hurt at first. Even if you’re not the fastest, it benefits you at the end because it teaches you how to be disciplined, and how to tolerate pain. It gets fun, as long as you have a unified team.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, and very talented,” said Head Track Coach Larry Silva. “I guess in a nutshell he probably was a loose cannon when he came here, but he has learned to take care of himself. He has learned to respect his body, and it shows in practice.”