American Heritage's Jose Penalver will get a taste of his first international competition when he represents his home country of Venezuela at the IAAF World U18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. We caught up with the 2A runner-up in the 800 and Saint Augustine's University incoming freshman to talk about his preparation for the most competitive race in his high school career.
This will be your first time an international competition correct? How excited are you to be representing Venezuela and competing against some of the best in the world?
I am running for Venezuela because I was born there and it's my home country. In my heart, I am full Venezuelan but I thank the United States so much for giving me the opportunity to better myself in their country. I am very excited to be wearing my countries colors becauseI been dreaming about this for as long as I can think of. It's a true blessing that is coming true.
Which performance throughout the season qualified you for the IAAF World U18 Championships?
I qualified during FL Relays when I ran 1:52 which at the time ranked me second in the world under 18.
That's a pretty long flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Nairobi correct? What adjustments do you need to make with travel and time change?
The flight to Kenya is about 20 hours. I go from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta to Paris to Kenya. The opening ceremony is Wednesday I believe and I run that same day in the first round of the 800. I've been working on making adjustments to the flights and times for the last three days now. I am pretty much living in Kenya time. It's weird because I am going to bed at 6 p.m. Miami time.
Not many athletes have the opportunity to travel to Africa. What are you looking forward to most about the whole experience?
It's pretty cool. I have never been to Africa so I am excited to be there and see their culture. Also, to meet runners from all over the world and ask about their training and make friends that I hopefully can see in Peru later this month and Tampere next year.
You ran at New Balance Nationals to prepare for this race. It's a meet you told me you've had on your calendar for the past four years. The best guys in this field have run 1:46 and 1:47. How have you been getting ready to face this level of competition?
I have to run my own race because I have never ran against any of these guys. I can't really base my race of anyone. I am just going to give it my best and come home happy with all of my goals accomplished
What are those goals?
My goals for this race are to come home with a PR, make the finals and be top ten, be ranked #1 in South America, and make international friends. I also hope to qualify in Kenya for the Pan Am Junior Championships and ultimately again for next year's IAAF World U18 Championships in Tampere, Finland.