Neda Velasquez

Neda Velasquez, a Monache High School graduate, earned an athletic scholarship from the University of California, Merced. She will be an incoming freshman on the women's cross country team this season.

Neda Velasquez continues to be proof that hard work pays off.

Last week the Monache High School graduate was awarded an athletic scholarship from the University of California, Merced. Velasquez, who is going to be an incoming freshman on the women’s cross country team, said the scholarship was unexpected. 

“The scholarship was honestly so unanticipated,” she said. “I honestly thought a scholarship wasn’t possible my first year, it never crossed my mind. When I received the text from my coach I couldn’t believe that I received the scholarship during my first year of running. I’m new to the sport, and the fact that I was able to receive the scholarship shows that I was dedicated this summer and will hopefully shine light to UC Merced.”

She added that the scholarship was a blessing and restored her confidence in herself. 

“It meant that life is constantly blessing me & I was pretty much capable of doing anything if I believed in myself,” she said. “Waking up every morning and putting in the hard work has paid off.”

Merced competes out of the California Pacific Conference in the NAIA and Velasquez signed with them in May. The COVID-19 pandemic kept her and the team from meeting but UCM head coach Vicente Velarde used Zoom and a training calendar to keep everyone connected. 

From there, Velarde saw Velasquez continuously working hard -- even checking in mid-workout -- and awarded her the scholarship.

“Throughout this summer she was working with her family in the fields and she still made the effort to report her training progress to me every week,” he said. “That was the biggest thing that gave me a lot of confidence in her work ethic. I'm looking forward to coaching her. I know her teammates will be glad to have Neda on their team.”

Velasquez said her weekly calendar included hill workouts and different types of runs: tempo, recovery, progression and regular runs. The workouts helped her become mentally stronger and she ended up running a personal best 21-minute, 10-second time for her 3 mile run while doing a tempo run. 

“I’m excited to see what my race pace is this season,” Velasquez said. “Mileage wasn’t very high this summer, each week I would run 28-30 miles. Unfortunately our season has been postponed until January 2021. The good side about the season being postponed is getting more time to improve and become faster.”

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