Salute To Seniors - Rachel Licea - Ferguson High School

What was your most memorable race?  
My most memorable race would most definitely have to be the 4x800m relay at the 2012 FHSAA Track & Field State Finals. Six girls were fighting for the four spots all season, and it wasn't decided who was racing until the Region meet. The four of us that raced had not ran the relay together since the very first race of the season where we ran close to our school's record, set the year before at the State Finals. I can still remember the adrenaline, anxiety, and excitement my teammates and I were experiencing that morning. We went into that race knowing that anything could happen; we could come out of there as either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Raposo told us all season that we were capable of running sub 9:10 on a great day, but all of it seemed so surreal until we passed the finish line as the state's newest 4x800m Relay Champions with a time of 9:08.41!  

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?  

While most athletes might say that their greatest competition was someone in the team of a local school across town, or maybe someone else in that really great running program across the state, I think my biggest competition throughout my athletic career was myself. Every year was a constant struggle with an injury or illness. During cross country season of my freshman year, I cut my foot with glass, had to get stitches, and was out three weeks, unable to compete in my Conference or District meets. During half of my sophomore year I had a really bad case of iliotibial band syndrome. But the worse year of all was my junior year when I was diagnosed with severe asthma; that one was the scariest of all issues because I didn't understand why I felt terrible on all my runs, both hard and easy. I knew I didn't have an injury but I felt more short of breath, weak, and fatigued as the weeks went by. I was my own worst competition because I was in a continuous battle with myself to stay positive and motivated. I love running. If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing it since I was eight years old. However, even with the background and experience I had behind me, every year was a new challenge to be the best I could be, not just athletically, but as a person.    

What was your greatest accomplishment?  

Senior year in its entirety was a major accomplishment! Entering in the fall, my goal was to run sub 20 minutes in the 5k and earn an individual state medal in track. I accomplished those goals and more! Not only did I run 19:38 in the 5k and earn an individual 5th place medal in the 800m run, but I was also an individual District Champion and Region Champion in the 800m run. I PR'd in every distance race I ran, from the 400m to the 5k, and I was happy with my overall performances. It was truly a memorable year!

If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?  

Absolutely nothing! Every step, every practice, every race, and every challenge shaped the person I am today. Running isn't like some other other sports. You can't blame your lack of results on a bad call from a judge or referee. You have your good days and you have your bad days. I embraced my good days with happiness and excitement, and I searched my bad days for reasons as to why I didn't perform the way I would have wanted. At the end of the day, I knew I had eaten, hydrated, slept, and iced right, and that’s all I could ever be certain of. As for what could happen after every step, every practice and every race, none of it was ever predictable.  

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?  

The most difficult obstacles I had to overcome, and I think I did, was mentioned above in a previous question. However, one that sticks out in my mind, as it would to Raposo, is maturing as a person and becoming the leader he always believed and yearned for me to be. He consistently urged me to speak up and take that next leadership role as I became an upperclassman. But, as it is with any young girl, it wasn't easy breaking out of my shell. As senior year approached, I began to realize the meaning behind his message and its importance. I was the only returning four-year senior and I knew it was my responsibility to become the individual our team needed. It didn't happen overnight, but over the course of several months I was growing as a person, and I was learning the true meaning of leadership.  

What will you miss the most?  

I'm going to miss racing in the hot sun at Larry & Penny. I'm going to miss eating breakfast at Mi Cafeteria after Saturday morning practices. I'm going to miss Raposo's rants about anything and everything. I'm going to miss team bonding events. I'm going to miss doing the "Bryce pose." I'm going to miss the long car rides to out of town meets. I'm going to miss Frank the Track. I'm going to miss hosting middle school meets. I'm going to miss eating at Sonny's BBQ because Raposo insisted on it, haha! I'm going to miss the 500+ pictures that my mom would take at all my meets, and I'm going to miss all the funny and embarrassing moments I can't really mention in this article. But above all else, I'm going to miss my teammates, the girls I spent countless hours a week with, whether it was on a run, over someone's house, or at an event. They were happy for me when I had a great day, and they supported me when I had a bad day. We didn't run for ourselves, but for each other. Every race was concerned with how it was going to have a positive impact on our team, and that is what mattered most. Together we laughed, cried, smiled, and joked about our experiences and the bonds we created will last a lifetime.  

What advice would you give to younger athletes?  

As often as they may hear this advice, it's 100% true: don't give up! Take in each race as an experience, learn and grow from it. You will surprise yourself one day when you accomplish goals that you once thought were out of reach. Also, learn about the sport in every aspect that you can. Research and ask older athletes or your coach questions about the sport that may concern or interest you. Most importantly, have fun! Remember why run and realize it's a sport, not a job or homework. You will win some and you will lose some. As long as you know you gave it your best effort, that's all that could ever be asked of you.

What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?  

Above all my teachers and my peers, Raposo has had the greatest influence in my high school career. Before meets, he always made sure I had an understanding of the competition and my rank within them. When it came to my performance, if I underperformed, he analyzed why I did not run well in every way possible. He would break down the race with me and get to the source of why I had a bad day. If I performed well, he couldn't have been more proud and happy for me. He always believed in me and in my abilities. He always encouraged me to be the best person I can be, not only as an athlete, but as a student, a teammate, and a friend. As an athlete, I could not have asked for a better advisor, mentor, motivator, or coach than Ryan Raposo.  

What are your college plans?  

Beginning in the fall, I will be attending the University of North Florida and competing under Coach Pigg. I'm really looking forward to running collegiately and seeing what the school has in store for me!  

Who would you like to say thank you to?  

I would like to thank my parents for their continuous support throughout all my years of athletics. They always went above and beyond for me and encouraged me to follow my goals and aspirations. Thank you for always being there for me when I was going through a difficult time, and thank you for understanding the dedication this sport requires not only from the athletes, but from the parents as well. I will miss you both tremendously when I go away to college! Thank you Raposo from the bottom of my heart for always believing in me and motivating me when I was down. You truly have a gift for putting things into perspective, and you've made me open my eyes to the vast world around me. You are an incredible person and an outstanding coach. I admire you and thank you for dedicating as much time and effort, as you did, to the sport and to your athletes. I would not be where I am today without your care and support. All my successes are thanks to you. Thank you for making my high school experience that much more memorable, and I will miss you immensely! Not to mention, thank you Flrunners for being the source of all the results, rankings, and articles that we, the athletes, enjoy to see most about the sport.  

Is there anything else you'd like to add?  
I would like to wish my teammates good luck in the upcoming year! You girls are incredibly talented, and I have no doubt that you will accomplish bigger and greater things. Do everything right; get the proper sleep, hydrate, eat well, ice, and you will become better and stronger athletes. Stay positive and never give up. Love you, girls!

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