Oct. 26, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - She wouldn't admit it, but Estefany Cruz is a pretty big deal in her home country of Guatemala. Leather-bound books don't line her bookshelves and she doesn't anchor the local news, but Cruz has a Ron Burgundy type reputation in her country. Her photo is displayed prominently inside the national track and field stadium and this past summer she set the national triple jump record.
Her steady performances earned her a spot in the XVI Pan-American Games that will be hosted in Guadalajara, Mexico. The games have already started, with the athletics portion, featuring the track and field events, starting on Sunday, October 23. Cruz will compete in the triple jump on Friday, October 28 at 4:50 p.m. Central time.
"It is awesome," Cruz said when asked about representing her country. "But I feel nervous. You are representing your whole country, in my case over 13 million people. I have a lot of friends and almost my whole country knows me. So they are expecting me to jump well. It is stressful, but it is good because it makes me want to try and do a better job and represent Guatemala the best I can."
Over the summer, Cruz competed in various international meets, trained with her late coach Manuel Maloyan and, on August 6, set the Guatemalan triple jump record. Cruz tied the national record with her fourth jump at the Saturday of Athletics meet, but it was the final leap that secured the new national mark. Having already won the competition, Cruz posted a near perfect jump and landed 43.56-feet (13.28-meters) away from the board in the powder white sand.
"I was training really hard and qualified (for the games) in Puerto Rico," said Cruz. "My coach told me that he knew I could jump better and we trained really hard the two weeks after. In (the record setting meet), he said `I don't care if you jump well or don't, we have two more weeks until the national championships'. I was really excited for that meet and in the last jump I jumped (43 feet and five inches). I took off early, too, so it was really like a 44-foot jump."
"It is really cool to see the other athletes and how competitive they are," Cruz said about coming to Tulane to compete. "It is good to see their technique and learn from them, especially if they are better than you. I am used to (being away from home), because I used to compete a lot for my country."
She will be a mere twenty hours away from her hometown this weekend and with the games being televised around the world. The cameras, fanfare and pressure of competing on the national stage is nothing new for Cruz and her confidence is unwavering entering the Pan-Am Games.
"It is going to be an interesting meet," said Cruz. "I want to make it to the finals. That's my goal. I want to get into the (top) five places. That's what I'm expecting, but it is going to be pretty hard."
If anything, Cruz should revel in the fact that her family, the New Orleans community and her 13 million friends will be tuning in to wish her well this weekend.