Track and field standout athlete Zora Golcevska
Zora Golcevska has jumped more than a few hurdles on her way to Santa Monica College, and many of those hurdles were met with hard-earned skill and a winning smile.
Originally from Slovakia, Golcevska is especially inclined towards the 100-meter hurdles and the long jump in track and field.
She was the best in her country for track and field from 15-20 years old, and in the youth division at the European Cup she came in fifth nationally, and placed sixth over-all in the 1995 European Youth Olympics.
Now she is poised as a contender in the Southern California Preliminaries where she will compete for SMC in her two favorite events plus two others: the 4 x 100-meter relay, and the 4 x 400-meter relay.
If she does well, she will be off to the Southern California Finals this weekend, where she will compete for State.
It is hard to imagine, looking at Golcevska standing at ease, tall and lithe at 5'11," that track and field has been anything but a breeze for her since she fell in love with the sport after seeing it on television when she was 11.
But she has faced tragedy and setbacks while in pursuit of her sport.
At age 7, after her parents divorced, her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Eventually this illness would make it necessary for Golcevska, an only child, to trade in her national track status for a full time job.
At 20, Golcevska went to work for an advertising firm in marketing to support both her mother and herself.
"I needed to care about my mother and about me, you know - I finally just quit with the track and field so that I could do the work; that's what I did the last six years," said Golcevska, her words tinged with sadness.
Two years ago her mother passed away.
With support from her friends, her uncle, and her grandparents, she was able to turn her eyes back towards her dreams.
She arrived in the U.S. in February for spring semester at SMC with renewed determination, knowing that she "at least had to try."
Friends in California had suggested that she should come here for her education because it would also give her freedom to practice her sport with support.
Golcevska said that in Slovakia "if you don't have rich parents" it is very difficult to get what you need to practice track and field. Coaches, track shoes, and time are not contiguously provided.
As a student with an F1 student visa, there are also things here that are unavailable to Golcevska, namely, financial assistance and the chance to work while going to school. But for now that is OK with her. "I don't need much," Golcevska said, simply.
She hopes that things will change in the future if she gets a scholarship to a university, but she is content to live meagerly for now, and focus on her business major and her training.
"She's been the most versatile athlete I've ever seen," said Eric Barron, SMC's women's head coach for track and field. "She's like a Jack of all trades."
Barron says that Golcevska is "tremendously helpful for the team," and multitalented, regularly participating in field, throws, jumps, sprinting and hurdling.
He is confident that Golcevska has a good chance to win in all of her events in the Preliminaries.
He admits though, that the Finals will be much harder to win, with "far fewer spots" allotted, and the fact that the "meet is more compressed" running only three-four hours versus the seven-hour meet in the Preliminaries.
Golcevska doesn't seem at all nervous about the challenges coming up, even though she has found it "very hard" to step back onto the beaten track after a five-year absence from practice.
But discipline seems to come naturally to Golcevska who practices every day, maintains a B average, and doesn't eat anything after 5 p.m.
In the end, it's not about competition for her; it's about commitment.
"Track and field will never let you down; never let you go," said Golcevska. "If you do the things that you really like and love, it makes your life easier."