The back of an ambulance is the very last place I would have imagined I would be in. Who would have thought, the fast shining Athlete of the Year would meet such a tragic ending. The more I think about the horrific event or should I say, events, the more one realizes to enjoy each and every last moment. The former student athlete known for breaking records and dominating the competition was just across the hall with one minor difference. This track and field stud just happened to be in a wheelchair. From the unseen Athlete of the Year to the guy everyone now calls “hot wheels.” My close friends decided to bestow upon me the nickname, “hot wheels” as I will be remembered as the person who ran from the start line to the finish line, but in my own terms. Those terms being in a wheelchair. There would be several moments where my friends occasionally came up to me and asked, “You think you can shoot me a ride?” Without a doubt the most joyful part of being in a wheelchair due to the fact that I actually gave them a ride. Being able to open my mind to even the most unthinkable of events has literally both saved and endangered my life. I have always heard the saying “All good things come to an end.” I just never imagined it would happen to me. With the help of several companions I had the honor of meeting have helped me along the way.
Before I get to how I became Hot Wheels, let me start where it all happened. My San Gorgonio High School experience would have been nothing without extra curricular activities. Sports as well as clubs made high school bearable. The sport which I love the most, soccer, did not go very well for me. Lets just say the varsity soccer coach and I had our differences in ideas. This all led to him booting me from playing during my last two years of high school. Although soccer was a bust, the one year I had the honor of participating in, I was able to meet some really great people. My best friend, Luis,who happened to be one of those individuals, who has also been doing Track as well as Cross Country attempted to persuade me to join Track and Cross Country with him. Month after month, all I would hear is “Ellis, stop being a little bitch and join track [and cross country]!” Believe it or not, Luis attempted to persuade me from the beginning of my sophomore year to the middle of my junior year. As time flew by I realized, I would rather spend my time doing sports than doing nothing at home. So the day finally arrived, I listened to Luis’ advice.
Luis never failed to remind me that it was never too late to join. The end of my junior year was the time where I finally came to my senses. After what some may call peer pressure, I attended my first ever informational track meeting. While meeting my future coaches as well as teammates, I was all in for what I was getting myself into. Track is split up into several events, many of which include: sprints, long distance, hurdles, jumps and throws. Due to my experience with resistance running in soccer, I joined distance. After several hours and hours of practice have been put in, the closer I have been able to get to my teammates as well as to Pablo Torres, my distance coach. I have never in my life met a group of more welcoming and cheerful faces. The more practice I put in, the more I realized track is nothing like I imagined it. I imagined just running until you finish the race. I did not know that there is a special way to run, there is strategy involved, and that the willingness to fight against the pain are all included. Due to my history of medical problems, I was used to fighting through the pain that comes with hustling. I began to learn that you are not supposed to strike your heel first when you run. That is exactly what I did. As a runner, I am supposed to make my toes touch the track first in order to launch me forward. Swinging my arms is something I did not think much of until I got to track. Swinging your arms at the same pace of your running pace can actually make a big difference. After hours of individual training one on one with Coach Torres, I was able to make some improvement, but I just could not fix my habits of my way of running.
As track season progressed, our first race was among us. As expected, I was the most nervous person ever, considering it was my first ever track race. The time came to adjust to this new sport. My race which was yet to be called next, the 400meter race which was 1 lap, ended in a reasonable fashion as I came in 3rd. It was not bad for my 1st ever race. However, there was one problem, the head coach that was not aware I had a talent for long distance races, threw me into a sprinter’s race. Since there was way too many participants in track, the head coach did not know who is running what race. As the second track meet started, Coach Sanchez and Torres both decided to make it their responsibility to put me int the correct race and put me in the mile race. While the season progressed, so did my work ethic, therefor my race day performance was both shocking and outstanding. Starting from the very back, I worked my way to the top. As the race came down to the last lap, it was time to show what I was made of. My strategy has since been born along with my coach’s famous saying, “Finish Strong!” My motivation race after race was to be the best I can be. With the cheers and support from my team, nothing was impossible. Coming in at a close second, just behind the fastest runner in the history of my school in my event, I could not have been more proud of myself. Along with the self motivation I was giving myself, my teammates as well as my coaches all demonstrated how proud they were. As races kept passing, I kept performing. With the help of my teammates as well as Coach Torres, whom I was building more of friend type relationship with, pushed me to be the best I can be. Surprising enough, I was able to reach the top ten list of all time in my school in my event, which was the 1 mile and 2 mile race. I even qualified to one of the hardest events to reach: the Inland Empire Championships was the highlight of my running career. Although I did not perform as I expected, I could not have been more proud of where I was standing.
The more I continued to progress, the more and more I kept surprising everyone including myself and family. As you may know, all good things come to an end. At the very peak of my running career while I was breaking school records and qualifying for prestiges events, injuries did not go without taking its toll. Before track season even started, I suffered a concussion which took me out early on in my soccer season. While at a tournament with the team, I clashed in the air with one of my opponents which knocked me out of balance and causing me to land on my head. After I was medically cleaned and made my mark on the track, injuries made its appearance once more. While peaking, my childhood allergies got to me in a way that I could not explain. My allergies led me into the path of asthma. The part that most trifled me is that, I have always been playing sports while having bad allergies. To take care of those allergies I take daily pills to weaken the symptoms. With the asthma, the inhalers in which I was given did not help one bit. The asthma got as bad as to not even letting me run a lap without running out of breathe to the point of nearly collapsing. I visited the doctors several times, in one instant they informed me I have extreme lung deficiency. My dad went as far as to taking me to his home country of Mexico in order to get a treatment for my asthma. This doctor I visited in Mexico treated my whole family which also suffer from severe allergies and or asthma. All of which have left his office as healthy as an ox. Of course this sickness will not just vanish, but it seemed like we, my family, never had it. Being treated by this doctor really changed my life. I have had numerous occasions where I was on the floor gasping for air while praying and begging for God to not take me just yet. I could not be happier at my health progress as of now.
As my injuries and health issues were once again to make its appearance, it seemed as if they were never going to go away. My senior year all went downhill. As the start of track season was looming, I was excited yet scared as what was to be expected. While the season was progressing, what I was expecting, happened. Considering the health issues I experienced the previous year, I lost a lot of the progress and experience I had gained. I went from being one of the fastest around the area to one of the slowest in my team. Sadly, it was just the start. When I was born, I had short tendons that were attached to my toes. As I got older, instead of my feet growing and my toes going down, they curled up on both feet. When reaching my 17th birthday, it seemed as if my toes were getting worse by the minute. It got so bad to the point that I could not even put on my shoes. Surgery was the drastic measures that were needed. As the end of my senior year came I had to push everything including my track season and senior activities aside. After my surgery, I was forced to spend a month and a half in a wheelchair. Thus, “hot wheels” was born.
The roller coaster that is high school has taught me a variety of things. Track was without a doubt the most valuable and troublesome point in my life. Track has not only taught me to open my eyes to new experiences, but more importantly, to never stop fighting. All the blood, sweat and tears were nothing compared to the lifelong lessons I had the honor of experiencing. Attempting to adjust into a runner’s shoes was without a doubt one of the hardest things I had to ever do. I could not have done it if it were not for Luis, Coach Torres and Sanchez and my teammates that pushed and encouraged me everyday to both better myself and never stop fighting.