|Sam Vazquez, Olympic Hopeful,|
Palm Coast, FL
The crazy thing about dreams is that most of us never have the kind that take on a life of their own. The "really big, heart thumping, adrenalin pumping, hyperventilation-inducing" kind that wake you up in the night in a cold sweat. Too risky! And if we do, we are reluctant to tell anyone, because then we're forced to either act... or look silly when we fail. Like, how many people do you know personally, who have said, "I'm going to be an Olympic athlete!?" Well, I did the math, and guess what? If you are one of the 353,000,000 Americans on the planet, your chances of going, are one ten-thousandth of a %! Yet there is one such individual in Palm Coast today, who says that is just what he is going to do...
If you've been in Palm Coast, FL for a while, you may know or remember Sam Vazquez, Flagler Palm Coast High School, Class of 2003. While a senior at FPC, Sam ran the Adidas High School Nationals Track Meet mile in 4:03! Oh, so close to breaking the 4 minute barrier. His time was the fastest prep mile time in the entire country that year (and faster than any college runner in Florida). That made him a National Champion! Since Jim Ryun broke 4 minutes in high school in 1964, only four others have done it (Marty Liquori, Tim Danielson, Alan Webb, and Lukas Verzbicas). That, along with his 6 individual Florida State Championship titles in various 800m, 1500m, mile, and relay events, put him in some very rarefied air. So much so, that he was recruited by legendary track coach, John McDonnel at the University of Arkansas... on a full-ride athletic scholarship in 2003. That's the same John McDonnel who coached 42 NCAA National Champions and 23 Olympians. More than any other track coach in history, by a wide margin.
|The Good... and the Bad|
Sam came back home to Palm Coast - his dream shattered - and experienced a letdown of major proportions. He stopped running and went through a series of small, meaningless jobs. He sat around, played video games, and pondered his future. Now I'm lucky enough to be married to his Mom, and proud to be his step-Dad. To save space, let's just say that three things happened to align Sam's stars and planets, to re-spark his Olympic Dream:
- His Mom stayed vigilant and continued to remind him that dreams don't die, unless you let them.
- He met Florencia - also a Flagler Palm Coast HS grad, and now his wife - who would have none of this "sitting around" stuff.
- He hooked back up with his high school coach, Peter Hopfe - now the assistant track coach at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
|Good Stuff happened here...|
|Florencia Silva Vazquez|
Long story short, both he and Florencia applied for and received athletic scholarship assistance at ERAU. They both ran fast and this time, thanks to Flo's relentless - let's call it "encouragement," Sam became a terrific student as well. They won races and athletic honors and both graduated with management degrees this past year. Sam was a 7 time NAIA All-American in track and cross country and the 2011 NAIA Champion in the 1000m event at Nationals. Upon graduation, Flo scored a terrific job at United Airlines Headquarters, and they moved to Chicago.
Now here's where things heat up again. Sam has devoted himself to making the Olympic qualifying standard in the 800m and/or the 1500m events, and hopes to represent the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in London this coming summer. He is staying with us now, here in Palm Coast, and has tackled a grizzly bear of a goal. He has competed recently in the Central American & Caribbean Games in Mayaguez and also the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, as well as the American Miler Series in Indianapolis. At an indoor meet in Arkansas last week, Sam ran into his old coach, John McDonnel (now retired to a cattle ranch in Oklahoma). The old man recognized him, even though it had been over seven years since they parted ways. "Vazquez!?" "I remember you... You had more potential than anyone." Ouch! Sam said it was such an honor to hear that... and also a spear through his heart. But no time to lament over "what might have been"... Time to focus on the "here and now"... On the "what will be!"
Just this week, as an un-attached runner, he went back to his ERAU alma mater and broke his old school record in the mile. Take that!
Palm Coast, FL has reason to be proud of Sam and he is representing us well. He is hungry, focused, and training hard. He's doing what many of us wish we could do - he's living his dream. He knows how difficult it will be to make this happen. He also knows that win, lose, or draw, he's giving it all he has. If you would be able to help support Sam's efforts, he would be very grateful for your donation, which will help defray his training, competing, living, and travel costs. To help Sam chase his Olympic Dream, please visit:
|Train Hard, Alex (Sam)!|
We are with you all the way!