Running towards success-Athlete of the Week Elia Sanchez

Elia Sanchez wakes up every morning and struggles to get out of bed to go to school; but she knows that waking up at dawn and sitting through the long commute on the bus from East L.A. to Santa Monica College and back at night will be worth the investment. “My favorite class here is Photojournalism 13 with Professor [Gerard] Burkhart,” said Sanchez. “I love that we get to take pictures, learn how to capture a moment, and learn about the laws and rights we have as photojournalists.”

Sanchez, a freshman at SMC, has never ran track before, but has always loved sports.

“I always watched the Olympics and thought that track is amazing,” said Sanchez, who played soccer at Roosevelt Senior High School in Los Angeles. “Every four years the world comes to watch you, so I feel that it’s powerful. It makes you stronger, both physically and emotionally, because you have to keep pushing, and even though it hurts, you’ve got to keep pushing.”

Sanchez has been “pushing” and persevering even before she started track this season.

High school was positively difficult, she said; she ultimately needed to take a year off to work and refocus before deciding to go to college.

Sanchez was also unable to graduate on time because, she said, of a misunderstanding over credits with one of her teachers.

Sanchez felt defeated, but remained determined. She said that her best friend, Beatris Navarro, was a model for motivation at the time. Navarro, who was diagnosed with a heart tumor, had to spend time in and out of hospitals while attending school.

“She was a great inspiration,” said Sanchez. “She was in and out of hospitals because of her tumor, and still went to school with a smile on her face, not giving up, and beating the odds. If she could do it, I definitely can.”

During that summer Sanchez focused, attended adult school, and made up for her one failing class from high school. She earned her diploma by the next fall semester.

Sanchez later got a job as an usher at The Staples Center and Club Nokia and continues to work there. Although her parents offered to financially support Sanchez while attending school, she declined their offer, explaining that she preferred to save up for a year before starting at SMC this past fall.

“I saw her jogging during P.E., and then I saw her racing another boy in her class. I was impressed when I saw her sprint,” said SMC Track and Field Head Coach Larry Silva. “I approached her, and she was apprehensive, but she finally decided to try it.

“Every single week she’ll improve. She’s gotten faster and faster, and I still think she can get faster. When you put together real hard work and good coaching, you’ll get the result Elia is experiencing.”

Sanchez described her participation in track as a “nerve wrecking experience,” but added that it was something she had always wanted to do, and that she has had some amazing accomplishments for a first time runner.

Sanchez has recently qualified for the Western Conference Championship Finals in the 400 meter.

“My favorite memory is at the end of a race earlier this semester. The crowd was cheering,” said Sanchez. “But one of my friends stood out because he was jumping and yelling ‘Flecha.’”

“Flecha” is a Spanish word that translates into English as “arrow” and the nickname that her YMCA coach gave her when she was 14.

Sanchez’s future plans are to transfer to a four-year university, where she can continue running. She’d like to go to the University of Southern California or University of California Irvine.

“I’m on track, finally doing track, and loving it,” said Sanchez. “It’s a sport that I am very passionate about, and I really hope to continue running at a university.”