Lopez Comes Back From Injury to Win for Glendale

El Vaquero Staff Writer

He came back from a devastating knee injury that could have ended his running career.

Big time.

Cross country runner Jorge Lopez, 22, returned to the track after a year of recuperating from a biking accident. And he has come back in remarkable fashion – no surprise to coach Eddie Lopez

Lopez (no relation to the coach) excels at one of the most rigorous track events, the steeplechase, a 3,000-meter race with tricky hurdles including water.

“He’s a strong runner and he never gives up,” said coach Lopez.

Less determined athletes may well have given up after a devastating bike accident like the one last year that left Jorge Lopez with injuries that required months of physical therapy – this after earning Most Improved Runner honors in his freshman year at GCC.

He has made a full recovery this season, going undefeated in the steeplechase among Western State Conference foes, and winning his event in the WSC Championships at Citrus College on April 28. Lopez has also fared well in his other two events, finishing fifth in the 5,000-meters and second in the 10,000-meters at the championship meet.

One of Lopez’s inspirations is his brother, Manny, a star runner throughout his high school years. “I always wanted to be like him and become a good runner too.”

After finishing his freshman year at Huntington Park High, Lopez followed the advice of Manny and transferred to Belmont High. At Belmont, he ran track and cross country in the shadow of Manny who was the school’s star athlete, someone who “no one could beat.”

“My toughest challenge was to beat my brother,” said Lopez. “He beat me in the city finals in high school, but I beat him at the state meet. I was the first to beat him in high school.”

At Belmont, Lopez twice earned MVP honors in track and cross country, finished second in the 3-mile at the L.A. City Championships, and third at the State Championships.

At Glendale, Lopez continues to reach for the stars.

“I want to be state champion in the steeplechase. I have a really good chance. Besides, it’s my last year, so I have to do it.”

Lopez plans to transfer to California Baptist University in Riverside as a physical education major. A full scholarship hinges on his performance in the Southern California Championship meet Saturday. He qualified for the event in the preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College, setting a

personal record of 9:28.80.

Some day he’d like to coach his own cross country team.