Monache senior committed to FPU’s cross country and track programs
Before he was a standout runner for Monache High School, Isaiah Sotelo was drawing attention in middle school and at the elementary level.
Now the senior looks to do the same as a member of Fresno Pacific University’s track and cross country programs after committing to the NCAA Division II Sunbirds.
“I chose Fresno Pacific because of how coach Ray Winter sold me on the program,” Sotelo said via email. “They are an up-and-coming program that has a lot of potential. Hopefully, through hard work and dedication, we can achieve something over the next four years. It means a lot to continue my career in college (with) new goals, new people. It is a blessing to be able to continue something that I enjoy doing.”
Along with running at FPU, Sotelo plans to major in criminal justice before moving on to law school and becoming a district attorney. At FPU Sotelo will receive $11,000 in academic scholarships ,and the rest in grants and athletics, to cover the total cost according to MHS head coach Seth Ishida.
In his talks with FPU coach Winter, Ishida said the two discussed Sotelo’s versatility and “rare mixture of power, speed and endurance.”
“He can run a 51-second flat 400 meters, (a) 1:58 800 and a 16:19 5K,” Ishida said via email. “That shows a great deal of range and durability. It really makes him more of a dual threat in track and cross country and he can make contributions as an underclassman, again.”
Sotelo got his start in competitive running back in elementary school during a mile run for PE (physical education) and he thanked his brother Israel and teachers for that.
“I owe a lot of thanks to my brother for introducing me to the competitive side of running but also a lot of thanks to my teachers and coaches for making me do the mile competitively even when I didn't want to,” he said.
Over the years Sotelo said there’s plenty he’s learned to like about running, including sportsmanship between runners, but he especially likes how it challenges him.
“To me, it's unlike any other sport,” Sotelo said. “It is tough, and yes at times I hate it, but it is something that I always come back too. I like how it challenges me both physically and mentally just to see how far I can go, as fast as I can go.
“The people and coaches that I have had are also what I like about running. I have made some really great friendships over the years with both my teammates and coaches.”
Coming out of middle school, Sotelo was already well known to the Marauders and it didn’t take him long to make a name for himself in the blue and gold. In his sophomore year, Sotelo set the school’s frosh-soph record in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:57.85.
This season he was set to not only break the varsity 800 record — set in 2015 with 1:55.61 by his older brother — but also become a rare, four-time East Yosemite League champion in the event. Unfortunately for Sotelo and other runners, his season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, stay-at-home orders and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) canceling the spring sports season just two meets in.
“I feel robbed of a senior track season,” Sotelo said. “I had a lot of goals that I wanted to accomplish like winning my fourth individual EYL title in the 800 meters. I wanted to see what our new (4x400 relay) team could accomplish, being so young and having new people being added to it. But my biggest goal of all that I am disappointed that I will not even get a chance at, is breaking the varsity record for the 800 meters.”
Still Sotelo’s accomplishments with the Marauders are numerous. He was a two-time Central Section championship qualifier in track and a four-time Valley qualifier in cross country. With the Marauders’ cross country team, Sotelo helped lead the team to the boys program's first Valley championship in 2017.
“My favorite accomplishment hands down was winning the first Valley title for our varsity boys cross country program in 2017,” he said. “Those four months of hard work, stress, and wanting to give up was all worth it when we won.”
“He was a key starter as a sophomore when we won the Division II Central Section championship with 47 points,” Ishida said. He added, “He has always been an elite runner complementing our number one runners that went on to great college careers. He continued to run at the top, helping us transition to Division I.”
But along with Sotelo’s impressive achievements on both the course and track, it’s his leadership that’s also been a strong part of his and Monache’s success.
“He always had pressure to perform and always met the expectations,” Ishida said. “He was the best leader this year and has always been our spiritual leader. One thing about Sotelo, his faith is his number one priority and he always walks the walk.
“At the EYL level, he was a key athlete in winning the program's ninth-straight EYL championship with a nine-year undefeated streak. He was a four-year varsity starter that played a key role in every season. Nine years of perfection is a lot to carry on your back for your whole high school career.”
Sotelo’s proud of being able to keep the streak alive, but in his final season he found the most pride in watching his teammates grow and develop into better athletes.
“My most fulfilling memory though was my senior year leading the youngest team that I have ever been a part of,” Sotelo said. “Watching those guys and girls grow and mature into the elite athletes that they are now is something I am honored to (have experienced) for myself.”