REFUGIO – Alexa Valenzuela, a Refugio High School freshman, may be the only ninth-grader in her school’s history to win three gold medals at the state field and track meet.
Valenzuela, 15, won those three medals at the UIL State Track and Field Championships in Austin two weeks ago.
Her coach, Katie Craft, said, “It looks like she is the first to (win three gold medals) as a freshman.”
Craft said, “Ginger Dickerson earned five gold medals at state her senior year in 1988, and she is the last and only girl from Refugio to ever do so.”
Craft noted that Dickerson won the triple jump at state in her senior year, and “Alexa makes only the second girl to ever win the triple from Refugio.”
Of course, Valenzuela did it as a freshman.
She is the daughter of Michelle and Morris Avery and one of five children.
Valenzuela said she is the second oldest among her siblings, so she obviously has had to take on some responsibilities.
“I’ve been doing track for a long time. I actually started getting into it in the eighth grade,” she said.
But even before that, she was growing to love the competition and challenges of the sport.
She said between the sixth and seventh grade, she ran some track.
“I like the energy. And once I kept winning, winning and winning, I really liked the sport,” she said.
Now she has three gold medals in her possession, one for the triple jump, one for the long jump and one for the 200-meter run.
The record for the triple jump is held by Allyson Williams with a 39-4 set in 1987. Valenzuela had 38-1.
The long jump record also was set in 1987 by Williams at 19-6 1/2. Valenzuela’s best this year was 18-4 1/4.
The record for the 200 meters was set by Dickerson in 1988 and was a 24:4. Valenzuela’s best this year was 25:52.
“The records are in her sights, and she is focused on breaking them,” Craft said.
“Not very many athletes from Refugio have ever even participated in five events at the state track meet. Toya Jones, Jamar Green, Ginger Dickerson and Alexa are some of the very few if not the only ones,” Craft added.
“My goal is to win five gold medals next year,” Valenzuela said.
She dreams of one day qualifying for the Olympics.
“In the mornings, I would think about it. I think about the crowd, the energy of the people, yelling and screaming. I hope this comes true one day,” she said.
At the latest state meet, she said the crowd was loud. The people numbered more than 31,000 at that event.
But when Valenzuela prepares for her competition, the crowd noise disappears.
“Once I am running. I can’t hear anything. Everything is shut off,” she said, adding that she becomes completely focused on the competition.
The focus was stopped at one point during the event held in Austin.
“When I was doing the long jump, I did one jump and they told us to clear the track. We had to wait five hours for storms to pass,” she said.
She said it was an inconvenience and it didn’t make a difference in her performance.
For now she also concentrates on her studies and is doing well academically.
She sighs with relief, knowing only about a week is left in school.
Although she is young and undecided about college, she does express interest in becoming a sonographer, one who uses ultrasound to help diagnose medical conditions.
“It’s hard to think about college. I’m pretty sure I will go for a scholarship,” Valenzuela said.
And now, she has become a role model for other students.
“It is amazing. I feel so special. They don’t know me and talk about me. I don’t even know them and they cheer for me.”
One philosophy she shares with others is her own: “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”