Q&A: Shot putter discusses upcoming big year
Junior shot putter Felipe Valencia is coming off of a career year.
Valencia set personal bests on his way to a conference title, which resulted in a trip to the NCAA Regionals. Valencia also got to travel with the Mexican U-23 team at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association games.
At the games, Valencia placed fifth and has created high expectations with the Cougars after a successful campaign last season.
The Cougar: What was it like representing Mexico at the U-23 Championships this summer?
Felipe Valencia: It was an amazing experience. Not a lot of people get that chance to represent a country. Getting to travel to an international meet just made it seem like all my hard work since middle school, basically, has worked out. Plus, knowing my family and UH were supporting me the entire way made it an even greater experience.
TC: How were you selected for the team?
FV: Yvonne Trevino is an Olympian long jumper who trains here. She was the one who noticed me and thought I had serious potential and pushed me to represent the Mexican national team.
She put my name out there, and I ended up going to their Olympic trials in the first week of July. I ended up placing third overall and just missed out on the game. But, I placed first in my group, the under-23s, so they immediately told me I qualified for the championships in El Salvador, so I agreed. I’m very thankful she gave me that support and drive to get my name noticed.
TC: Growing up in Texas, how did you end up competing for the Mexican national team?
FV: Basically, it was my dad’s dream. I grew up knowing he was an athlete in Mexico and every time I won a state title he would be like, ‘you could go with Mexico,’ and I was like, ‘maybe I could go with the U.S.’
He passed away in my freshman year of college. So, this really seemed like a way I could honor my dad, because he was always the one pushing me to go through that route.
TC: How did you end up getting recruited by UH?
FV: It started at a summer meet in high school. There, I met coach (Will) Blackburn, and I gave him my information. After that, we were going back and forth emailing.
He’s an amazing recruiter. He cares about family. (Family) was the main thing. I liked how (UH) is winning championships and there was a big tradition that I wanted to be a part of.
TC: How was the transition from high school to college?
FV: I had a good first meet as a true freshman. But then, an injury slowed me down throughout the rest of the season. Ultimately, it was a mix of emotions: I was hurt, my dad wasn’t there, and I just had to get used to not winning.
TC: Last season was without a doubt a breakout year for you. What was different for you?
FV: It was pretty much just hard work. I knew how it felt to be on the bottom, so it was more of keeping my head high, working and that ultimately translated during the season.
TC: What have you and your coaches been working on to improve your performance this season?
FV: This past summer, going into the international meet, and at regionals last year, I saw just how huge all the top competitors are. So, this season I’m hoping to dedicate myself to nutrition and strength.
TC: What are your future goals?
FV: My personal goal is to attend the national meet. That will be a big plus for me since I’ve never been.