San Diego Mesa Cross Country
A student athlete on the rise that runs far and wide during the pandemic’s troubling times, Sophomore Yahaira Zuniga will be running for her team this year, while at the same time balancing work, school, family, and always striving to be her best.
The best way that Zuniga put it was, “I just want to be someone responsible and complete as many achievements as I can. Including helping others.”
Sean Ricketts, head coach of the cross-country team, offered his input and said, “Yahaira represents what it means to be a student athlete at San Diego Mesa College. She is committed and focused on using all of her resources and making the sacrifices in order to put the time and effort into her academics and athletics in order to develop as a student, athlete, and person in order to transfer to a four-year university.”
However, that wasn’t all. Ricketts added, “This year, it is admirable and inspiring to see Yahaira go above and beyond during the pandemic by balancing volunteering at two different places, interpreting for patients at a Health Clinic and Physical Therapy and Nutrition Clinic, working at a restaurant, helping her mother with her personal business, and excelling in school and being consistent with training and team Zoom sessions.”
It’s a fact that the pandemic has affected everybody, but it didn’t stop Zuniga from moving forward and she explains why. “No one expected this to happen but we have to find ways to continue our life and to find new ways to do whatever we have to do,” she said. As Zuniga balances everything in her palette, this is how she felt, “I really enjoy interpreting because besides just translating, you also learn how to take care of yourself and others.” She also added, “I’m learning how to cook more and be way more responsible. Honestly I don’t like to cook, but now that I’m learning, I’m enjoying it.”
For Zuniga’s achievements, she placed seventh last year at the State Meet and earned the All-American Honors as a freshman. When it comes to her times, Ricketts noted, “Yahaira improved her Cross Country 5000m time from 20:33 (HS) to 18:49 last year in the State Meet and her track times with the limited track meets last Spring: 1600m 5:48 (HS) to 5:24 (5:02 1500m conversion) and 3200m 12:46 (HS) to 11:22. She has been healthy and consistent and has overcome the illness and injuries she experienced in High School.”
All of Zuniga’s reasons for running comes from her inspiring dad. “I always saw him training so hard, racing, winning races, all his effort and achievements really captured my attention and I wanted to be like him, someone that never gives up, and works hard to achieve what you want no matter what,” added Zuniga.
Some humble words from both of her parents unravels Zuniga’s nature. “She has a character that demonstrates that she would get to the point where she wants to go. Not the best at everything but always do the best.” Cross-Country is a sport where the only direction and path you go is forward. Zuniga strives for her best and continues to do so. “No matter what is going on, what obstacles you face… always look or find a way to do something. Nothing can stop you like right now; the coronavirus did stop us from doing many things, such as being able to race, nor can we go to classes on campus. Everything is now limited but there is always a way to continue,” said Zuniga.