High school life is about experimentation. You can’t discover if you will like something unless you have the courage to try. For 17-year-old Edgar Vazquez of L.A. Fremont High, joining the cross-country team last fall changed his life.
“At first, I was scared,” he said.
He thought he’d have to race for 10 miles. When he heard it was three miles, it reduced his concerns. Friends also were joining the team, so that helped strengthen his mettle.
“I tried it out and really loved it,” he said.
At the Coliseum League track and field finals last week, he finished second at 1,600 meters in a close finish. It means his track season was over since he didn’t qualify for Thursday’s City Section preliminaries.
Just being on the track was a victory.
He’s a COVID boy, a Los Angeles Unified School District student subjected to restrictions for three of his four years of high school. He wasn’t certain when he’d get to run.
“Honestly, I never thought it would actually happen,” he said. “But as soon as restrictions ended, it opened up for me.”
His parents came here from Mexico. He lives in South Los Angeles. He has a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to attend UC Davis in the fall. As he prepared to run four times around the Washington Prep track, the 5-foot-8, 142-pound senior reflected on what the moment meant to him and others who have been dealing with the ups and downs of the pandemic.
“On a personal level, it means a lot,” he said. “I have a chance to do something I love — running. It’s nice to feel we’re getting to a normal level.”
Brothers Mykale and Mahki Mundy from Dorsey were pretty much ordered to join the track team by their father, a Crenshaw grad who wanted his three boys to stay out of trouble by focusing on sports. Oldest brother Markus won the City 800 last season when Dorsey was the only Coliseum League team to send runners to the City championships because of COVID restrictions.
Now Mykale, a senior, is a contender to win the 100 and 200. He won his events at the Coliseum League finals in 11.20 and 22.37, respectively.
Mahki, a 14-year-old freshman who has grown to 6-3, is such a promising high jumper that his veteran coach, Steve Lang, is getting excited. He has coached seven athletes who cleared 7 feet in high school. Mahki is his first freshman to have cleared 6 feet. He also has qualified for the City prelims.
The Mundy brothers are all-in with track and field even though they are also basketball players. It’s one of those parents-knows-best things, because they’re now enthusiastically embracing their spring adventure.
“I didn’t like doing it,” Mykale said. “Now I like it more.”
Yes, winning matters, but so does the chance to compete, and that will be the greatest victory this week when Southern Section athletes compete in their divisional championships on Saturday at Moorpark High and City Section athletes seek a spot in next Thursday’s championship meet at Lake Balboa Birmingham.
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Vazquez won’t be competing, but he gave insights into lessons learned.
One is taking a chance to try something different even if it’s outside your comfort zone.
“I was scared of cross-country, but ‘Let’s give it a shot,’” Vazquez said he told himself. “It pushed me to my limit. I loved it.”
Another lesson is how competition makes you better.
“The reason I feel the competition is more important to me than the audience is because it helps me realize there’s so much more to be done,” he said. “I can always have fun even though it’s people I don’t know.”
Finally, Vazquez said he has found out something his father told him from a young age was true.
“It’s the same old advice that my dad gave me and am still realizing to this day — put the work in and be grateful for the things you have,” he said.
Vazquez isn’t going to stop running any time soon. He’ll take his new love with him to UC Davis and beyond. He discovered a life skill in high school that will stay with him for years to come.
“It’s a wonderful way to run off steam whenever I feel overwhelmed,” he said.
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