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Aldo Marquez, PVCC’s nationally ranked athlete

Texas' Zack Bilderback, left, Florida's Najee Glass, center, and Illinois' DJ Zahn cross the finish line during the men's 400-meter event during the NCAA indoors track and field national championships Friday, March 13, 2015, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

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Texas' Zack Bilderback, left, Florida's Najee Glass, center, and Illinois' DJ Zahn cross the finish line during the men's 400-meter event during the NCAA indoors track and field national championships Friday, March 13, 2015, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Lacey Fron, Staff writer

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As dusk settled in on March 16, a pack of NCAA Division I runners from all across the nation gathered to compete in Tempe, Arizona. The runners took turns striding across the rubber track to warm up their legs. The gunman ordered the racers to line up for the second heat of the men’s 1500 meter race. Standing on the white line were athletes from Northern Arizona University, Texas A&M, University of Minnesota, Arizona State University and Louisville University. Also standing on the white line was an athlete that looked out of place. Although all of these athletes were from universities, this particular one was from Paradise Valley Community College.

The gun fired and the runners took off. The competition was tough. The runner from PVCC was thrown to the back of the pack for the first three laps. The second gunshot was fired to signal the last lap as the runners cranked it up to full speed. The PVCC runner showed his strength and determination as he fought to pass his competition, one by one.

Aldo Marquez-Barajas finished with a time of 3:54.07, earning 11th place out of 22 runners at ASU’s Baldy Castillo Invitational. Mr. Marquez’s performance placed him as the fastest junior college 1,500 meter runner in the country! National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) is, the community college national governing body for sports.

“The race was pretty cool considering the fact that we were the only community college runners there. It felt good to be on the university level,” said Marquez. His 1,500 meter time was a personal best and converts to a 4:12 mile.

According to Marquez, his success was not easily achieved. In fact, he admits that he has had more struggle than success.

“I fail two or three times more than I succeed. I work hard to make sure that each failure comes with a greater success,” he says. Apart from Marquez’s philosophy, he has also improved his habits. By taking the extra time to warm up, cool down and stretch after every run, Marquez’s muscles stay loose, and he is less likely to get an injury.

“My biggest advantage is, after a race, we [runners] tend to go out and celebrate. But I like to go back home and do the things I need to do to make sure I get a full recovery. My body feels rejuvenated for the following week’s workout,” he says.

The PVCC cross country coach, Dave Barney, also plays a crucial role in Marquez’s success. A typical day at practice either consists of high intensity workouts or long recovery runs. Coach Barney also moves track workouts to the evenings so his athletes can avoid running hard in the heat. “I like to think of Coach Barney as a mentor. He teaches me how to build great character and how to be successful in running and any other aspect in life,” Marquez says.

Marquez may be a star athlete now, but his mentality prior to this year weighed him down. During his freshman year at PVCC, he has struggled with injury as well as racing mentality.

“I overthink some races, especially when the race is important. I feel too much pressure by others and myself. When I’ve already thought about not doing well, it’s over. I won’t do well,” says Marquez.

As Marquez has learned through experience, nothing is impossible when it comes to self-improvement. Eventually his hard work and positive mentality paid off. Marquez started seeing results during indoor track season this year. He added that learning from poor races and unhealthy habits helped him improve his performance.

“I like to visualize by laying on the ground and closing my eyes and visualizing a good performance. The race isn’t going to change me. I am relaxed, knowing that I’m going to race for fun,” Marquez says.

Visualization and affirmations like the ones Marquez says to himself is not strictly for runners. In fact, this tactic can be applicable to any area of life that seeks improvement. Marquez’s journey also proves that using this method can open doors to opportunity.

Marquez plans on attending NAU because they have won the NCAA national championship title for the past two years.“I want to be a part of that, and I want to be around great athletes that will take me far,” Marquez says.

After college, Marquez has made it a goal to compete in the Olympic trials. He plans to compete as long as he can, and he is driven to succeed by more than just personal satisfaction. His greatest motivation comes from his family, who has given him immense financial and emotional support. He takes pride in his their hard work to provide for him and hopes to provide for them when he is older. He is also the first in his family to attend college, and sets an example for his younger brother. “I owe it to my family for everything they’ve done for me”, Marquez says.

The long distance racers line up on the Arizona State track just three weeks after the Baldy Castillo Invitational. The Sun Angel Classic, hosted by ASU, showcases high school and collegiate trackletes. Marquez prepares for the premiere mile race by taking strides and visualizing a successful race. The runners take their mark. The gun fires. As the runners compete in a tight race, Marquez’s father and two brothers cheer him on for the first time since he joined the PVCC team. Marquez gives his fullest effort in his kick to finish off the race at 4:16.62, earning 7th place.

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