For the past 10 years, the Girls’ Track and Field athletes at Questa High School have quietly taken big and small victories with Coach Deluvina Sanchez. She has coached her teams to win 9 out of 10 district championships, four individual event state championships, and countless other podium victories. While she would never take all the credit for these results, she deserves to be recognized as a top coach in the sport who sets a new standard in Questa Athletics.
Coach Sanchez fell in love with the sport as a spectator watching her daughter, Santana Ortiz, compete. When former Coach Tina Cisneros retired, Coach Sanchez decided to take it on. Then in spring 2013, the team won the district championship. This would make it the 5th year in a row for the Ladycats. Coach Sanchez understands the power of hard work and dedication and knows how to win district championships. However, Coach Sanchez was unwilling to share the secret sauce of how she has kept this streak going for so long.
With 26 years at the Questa Independent Schools, Coach Sanchez is almost ready to retire. She started her career as an administrative assistant at the central office. Then she earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Performance and Sport from New Mexico Highlands University. Sanchez has been a teacher for 14 years, mainly teaching Physical Education classes, but she has also taught Spanish and Health.
Coach Sanchez shared that she has enjoyed teaching PE and coaching because she likes helping kids build lifelong health and exercise habits. It is during her PE class that she has an advantage because she is always recruiting. She gets excited when she notices the potential in an athlete during class lessons and encourages them to come out for the team. Sanchez believes that many kids need a lot of adult encouragement to start believing in themselves and their potential.
At the beginning of the season, Coach Sanchez likes the athletes to try out the different events they were interested in. She evaluates whether they have any natural strengths for that specific event but must also be interested in building the skills needed to improve each week. Above all else, she believes they should enjoy the events they compete in. Not every athlete who comes out for track enjoys it, but many get a taste of victory and won’t stop until they hit the state podium.
Success in any sport is impossible unless you understand how to build a strong team, empower your athletes to maximize their potential, and be fair to all athletes willing to try. Coach Sanchez shared that her “goal as a coach is to build up my athletes. I want them to know they are important to the team even if they do not come in first.” Even though track and field can be thought of as an individual sport, nothing is possible without teamwork.
Track and field consists of various events that can be categorized into groups. According to NMAA, there are 18 events for high school athletes to compete in. There are six individual running events, which include sprints and middle-distance. Then there are five relay running events and two more individual events with hurdles. Last are the field events, 4 jumping and 3 throwing.
While she doesn’t always have enough athletes to compete in all the events, she relies on the assistant coaches to help cover all the events. She has especially enjoyed working with Coach Domingo Torres over the past few years because he helps her analyze opponents, provides insights on event dynamics, and assists athletes in executing effective strategies. It helps to have another set of eyes over all the events.
Specialist coaches, like Coach Jason Gonzalez in Pole Vault, are essential because they take the small group to work on the specific skills for that event. The athletes get a lot of one-on-one coaching and expertise.
Aside from her first-year coaching, Coach Sanchez has had the help of assistant coaches. She said these coaches have been integral to the team’s success each year. She wanted to thank them: Cruz Duran, Monique Trujillo, John Rael, Larissa Passino, current assistant coach Domingo Torres and Pole-vault coach Jason Gonzalez.
Coach Sanchez and her team know victory and defeat, but it is without falter that the QHS girls’ track team brings home more medals to add to the collection. While female athletes are often underrepresented and undervalued, these athletes bring pride to their school and community. Coaches like Sanchez are important in elevating female athletes and building their confidence. Coach Sanchez hopes each athlete she coaches feels valued and respected and has learned valuable skills to set themselves up for a good life.