Stepping to her own beat

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WOMEN CROSS COUNTRY.

Freshman Queztalin Tepayotl leads the Dons to a fourth-place finish in the region.

Freshman distance runner Quetzalin Tepayotl hears the rhythm as her aching feet pound pavement, repetitively, endlessly. And then she sees the finish line in her head, for a race set to begin in a week.

“I play music in my head and repeat certain quotes to myself as I’m running,” Tepayotyl said.

Zoning in on hyperactive beats while meditating on repetitive mantra blocks the pain of training. For cross-country runners, Tepayotl says, race day is the least of their worries.

Her hard work has paid off. As the Dons’ top runner, she qualified for the state championships in Fresno, Calif., along with freshman Cecilia Chavez and sophomore Alicia Sotelo, and helped lead the Dons to a fourth-place finish at the Orange Empire Conference Finals Oct. 26 at Golden West College.

The Dons improved over last year’s finish, when none of its runners qualified for state finals.

Through five meets in 2012, the dedicated runner has surpassed her time in every race. Her best performance came at the Brubaker Invitational at Irvine Park, where she finished with a time of 20 minutes and 26 seconds, good for 22 out of the 88 person field.

Quetzalin has a quirky explanation for why she is determined to finish ahead of everyone.

“This pain is only for 3 miles and it can be shorter if you run faster,” she said, revealing a playful nature that contrasts with first impressions of her as painfully shy.

“You can’t shut her up once she’s used to you,” Laura Ramirez said.

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Cross-country coach Miriam Mitzel scouted Tepayotl as a senior and found a complete package. Aside from being named to the Bolsa Grande High School Cross Country Hall of Fame and finishing eighth overall in the region, she was also recognized as an outstanding scholar-athlete.

“Quetzalin is a good teammate and a leader. She always wants to win,” Mitzel said.

As the team’s top runner, she’s helped the Dons reach its highest place finish. Previously the Dons finished seventh place three times and below 13th twice. In the OEC championships she finished 15th.

“It’s a good feeling receiving medals for running, and I am simply proud of how much I’ve improved through my high school years and college,” Tepayotl said.

Her ultimate goal is attending UC Davis, where she intends to major in animal science. Running may take precedence in her life now, but she hasn’t lost sight of why she does it.

“What keeps me running and motivated is that I believe I’ll get a scholarship,” Tepayotl said.


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