Being fast on your feet, a quick sprinter or a high jumper won’t get you on the women’s track team. Hard work, dedication and willpower are all traits that Coach Eddie Lopez looks for in his athletes.
“This is the best start we’ve ever had,” Lopez said. “I’ve had no complaints so far this season.”
There are 22 women on Lopez’s women’s track team. This isn’t including the men’s track and field that he coaches as well. Lopez is the only coach on campus that manages both a female and a male sport. All of the practices are coed.
Lopez said that toward the end of the season the team turns into a sisterhood for the women and a brotherhood for the men. The team and coaches travel together almost every Friday and Saturday, sometimes hours away.
“We practice daily, even Saturdays for two hours at a time,” Lopez said.
Women’s cross country team members run from 70 to 80 miles a week during practice.”The sprinters may not run as much, but it is quality work,” Lopez said.
With this kind of long-lasting endurance Lopez has no choice but to make cuts from his team. He said that many people would like to be on the team, but cannot seem to keep up with the stamina that it takes to run every day.
“I can tell in the first week of day if they will make it,” Lopez said. “I don’t cut them, they cut themselves.
“The investment in an athlete is long term and every person takes up space and time.”
The performance of the sport does not only affect whether or not Lopez will keep the women on the team, but it also has an impact on their personality and education. As a coach Lopez feels that it is his responsibility to be able to read his athletes. They must be physically, mentally and even socially ready to join the team. He went on to describe how his runners can’t have too many distractions when they run.
He wants his runners to concentrate on nothing but the scenery of California, the wind at their backs, and getting to the finish line.
“I tell them, you run, I’ll think,” Lopez said. “It’s not a dictatorship, but almost” he said laughing.
Lopez said that he saw great dedication from all of the athletes at the last meet they had. It was raining and cold out and the half of the team had finished their event. Their coach had given them the choice to go sit on the bus and stay warm and wait for the other members.
Lopez said that not one athlete chose to go wait it out on the bus, they all showed respect for their teammates and stuck it out in the rain and watched them finish their events.
Respect is something that the team works on every day. Lopez tries to teach his team to respect themselves first of all, and others second. Last year members used this skill at the Western State Conference. Even though they did not place first, as they all worked so hard to get, “We all walked out with respect,” Lopez said.
Self-respect is a big part of being on the track team. Track is a sport that is all about numbers, statistics, and placing. The players are constantly reading up on themselves immediately after a meet and comparing themselves to the other athletes. Without respect for themselves the critiquing and analyzing could become unforgiving.
There are two players on Coach Lopez’s team who stand out with exceptional respect and statistics, Karen Rosas and Angie Martinez.
Rosas has been running for GCC women’s track for two years now and is the captain of the team. She graduated from Bravo Magnet Los Angeles High School. Rosas will sometimes run a double of the 10K. One 10K is 25 times around the track.
“She is the all American favorite to win the WSC rallies, the 10K and or the 5K,” Lopez said.
Martinez was labeled the Runner of the Year out of 13 different colleges, for cross country last year. This makes her one of the top runners in the state. She graduated from John Burroughs High School in Burbank.
The women’s and men’s track and field team has always been a sport the GCC has been proud of. Two years ago they came home with a State Championship from Antelope Valley College. In 2010 nine athletes won the All-American honors award.
Even with such a successful team, the track and field athletes are also feeling the effects of the budget cuts that are going around.
“The track team is being affected by the lack in investment due to all of the traveling,” Lopez said. “The dean has been very supportive for the team though.”
To travel the team must find a way to afford uniforms, sweats, gas, and the bus, equipment for the team and even food for the athletes.
“The athletes are only given $5 for food a day when we travel. Five dollars doesn’t buy you anything,” Lopez said.
When asked if what type of improvements he would like to see this year he answered with, “We dominate on the track, but need work on the field.”
No matter if they win or lose, Lopez said that the GCC women’s track and field will always have class.