Sam Vazquez is fast. Wicked fast.
In 2003, he was named the Adidas High School National Champion in the mile, finishing in a blazing 4 minutes, 3 seconds, as part of the Flagler Palm Coast High School track team. Nine years later, Vazquez’s time remains the fastest in the Florida high school record books.
After graduating from FPC in 2003, he attended the University of Arkansas on a running scholarship, where he was a member of the 2003 NCAA National Outdoor Championship team.
He failed out of school, however, and stopped running.
But in 2008, he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona Beach, to rejuvenate his academic and running career. There, he was reunited with coach Peter Hopfe, his coach while at FPC.
In three years at ERAU, Vazquez was a seven-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American in track and cross country. He also received an NAIA National Runner of the Week award. In 2011, Vazquez was the 1,000-meter indoor champion, finishing in 2:24.
Believe it or not, that’s when things were just getting started for Vazquez.
In the summer of 2011 after graduating from ERAU, Vazquez competed in the American Milers Club Series, in Indiana. In the race, Vazquez set a personal best, finishing the 1,500 meters in 3:42. (Although the one-mile is 1,600 meters, the official race for the Olympics and world championships is 1,500 meters.) His speedy finish was followed with an invite by the Puerto Rican Track and Field Olympic Team to represent them at the Central America and Caribbean Games, in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
Vazquez’s success made him realize he wanted to make a career out of running. His first goal is to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London. He must hit the Olympic qualifying standard of 3 minutes, 38 seconds, in a sanctioned 1,500-meters race before the July deadline
Though he was born and raised in the United States, his grandparents are from Puerto Rico. He hopes to represent his grandparents’ country on the track team this summer.
“To qualify for the Olympics would mean the world to me,” Vazquez said Wednesday. “It’s a goal that I’ve had since freshman year in high school.”
Vazquez, who’s now 28, said he’s motivated every day by the ongoing “failure” thoughts in his mind.
“This is for all the people who believed in me — my wife and family — and to all the people who thought I was a waste of talent for failing out of the perfect opportunity running at Arkansas,” he said.
While most runners retire at around 28, Vazquez thinks he is only approaching his prime because of missed time.
Vazquez has traveled throughout the country as he applies a new base-training program. He has increased his weekly mileage of running to about 100 miles, up from about 60.
He will take his first shot at reaching the qualifying standard March 23, at an ERAU event. If he misses it there, he will head to California to race at Stanford University. Following that, he would go to Puerto Rico to participate in the Ponce Gran Prix.
But the less traveling, the better for Vazquez. Though he has a degree in business administration, his full-time job is training. Money for him and his wife, Florencia, is tight. He admits that they struggle at times.
“Paying bills is very difficult and stressful,” he said. “ ... And if we don’t have money for a bill, we simply just don’t pay it. Our rent is the most important bill and everything else falls after.”
Vazquez is sponsored by Karhu running shoes as well as Valiant watches.
Either way, stressful or not, Vazquez is chasing a dream. He understands times can be rough, but he’s trying to prepare for his family’s future, too.
“I do this so that my children can grow up and say my dad is an Olympian — to give them a goal to be better,” he said.
It’s only a matter of time to see if he’s fast enough to catch the dream he’s chasing.
For more information on Vazquez, visit his website here.
Here's a video of Vazquez winning the national championship in the 1,000 meters for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the 2011 NAIA Indoor National Championships.
Sam Vazquez is fast. Wicked fast.