ELGIN – Fabiola Ortiz started competing in track as a middle-schooler, and she hasn’t stopped since.
Ortiz, 19, participated in indoor and outdoor track this year at the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa. This is also her second year in cross-country after taking up the sport during her senior year at St. Charles North High School.
The freshman already made a name for herself by breaking the school’s outdoor track distance medley relay and 4x8 distance relay records.
“The students are just taking down records and putting new ones up,” Ortiz said from her home in Elgin. “It’s exciting to be part of that.”
Ortiz attributes the team’s success in part to Geoffrey Gundlach, who she considers to be the best coach she’s had.
Gundlach has been through it all as a runner and even runs with the team during every practice, Ortiz said.
With the University of Dubuque’s student body topping about 1,600, the boys and girls cross-country teams are like a family and train together, Ortiz said. One of the track teammates who helped Ortiz break records, Kiersten Wenthold, will also be her roommate next year.
Ortiz is also proud of the fact that her grades have stayed up even with her athletics. She’s still pursuing her plans from senior year of studying psychology, but this year she added a focus on drug and alcohol counseling.
“I find it very interesting how addiction can grab ahold of people’s life,” she said.
Ortiz said she didn’t have a stable home growing up or an ideal childhood and could have easily turned to bad habits. With her life experience, Ortiz said she’ll be able to connect with at-risk children in the future and help them find a way out of their struggles.
“I really enjoy being there and it is really expanding my horizons,” Ortiz said of the university. “I am more than happy with my decision.”