Rafael Sanchez, 16, Heads To Italy With Team USA For Under-18 Mountain Running Event

Rafael2.jpgProudly wearing his Team USA gear Monday is Rafael Sanchez who heads to Italy later this month to compete in the WMRA International Under-18 Mountain Running Youth Cup. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com 

Rafael 1Rafael Sanchez is ready to run with Team USA later this month in Susa, Italy. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com


It’s not every day you meet a 16-year old teen who found when he started seventh grade that he could just about outrun anyone in middle school. Rafael Sanchez of Los Alamos said he started running because his older brother, Uriah, was a runner. He said when he started training in suneventh grade he got the bug and has been running since.

Sanchez has actually run himself into a spot on Team USA and will travel later this month to the 14th WMRA International Under-18 Mountain Running Youth Cup in Susa, near Turin, Italy.

He started running for the Los Alamos High School varsity team when he was in eighth grade.

“It was fun. It was nice to get a feeling of high school running because it was more competitive and a lot faster,” Sanchez told the Los Alamos Reporter. He said he enjoyed competing with LAHS alumni such as Chris Buntain and Kai Coblentz.

His personal records are: 15:43 for the 5k,  2:05.66 for the 800m, 4:36.84 for the 1600m and 9:45.85 for the 3200m.

Sanchez was a member of the 2018 Los Alamos High School New Mexico State Champion Cross Country Team and finished second in the state. His goal is to win state this year. He won the 2018 Nike Southwest Regional Medium-Sized School Division and raced to a 15:43 for 5000M at the 2018 Nike Southwest Regional Cross Country Competition. He holds top 10 individual cross country finishes in 24 of 26 varsity level events since eighth grade with 18 finishes under 16:45 and 3 finishes under 16 minutes.

Despite all the success, Sanchez remains a humble and hardworking athlete who says he has enjoyed competing with fellow LAHS runners Duncan Fuehne an Steven Strevell, and likes to play basketball on the varsity team when he is not running. He seemed both surprised and pleased when local restauranteurs Pawel and Dorota Listwan at Cottonwood on the Greens comped his meal during his interview with the Los Alamos Reporter in honor of his achievement.

In preparation for the 5km race in Susa, a mountain village near Villa Lattea in the Italian Alps, Sanchez said he has been training hard, running some nine miles a day at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. The Susa race on Aug. 24 sets off from and ends in the village and will include stretches of pavement, cobblestone and single-track mountain trails with steep ascents and fast descents. Sanchez believes the trails he loves to run in Los Alamos are preparing him well for the event.

Sanchez’s coaches are Rob and Kathy Hipwood, and Steven and Lindsay Montoya.

Steven Montoya said Sanchez is an exceptional young man.

“We are very excited about this opportunity for Rafael to represent Team USA in at a world championship,” he said. “It is such a tremendous experience for him going forward and such an example to the team at LAHS on what’s possible when natural talent and dedicated work come together”.

Montoya said Sanchez’s coaches feel he is as prepared as anyone competing because of the altitude and terrain in Los Alamos.

“Rafael has put in a significant amount of running of the summer and he is the current top returning cross country runner in the state of New Mexico,” Montoya said.

Coach Kathy Hipwood told the Los Alamos Reporter that Sanchez still has a lot of room for growth.

“He has not yet been a year-round runner, whichs all runner with his resume most certainly are. He has continued to play basketball and has been supported in doing so but it is exciting to realize that there is unleashed potential as well,” she said. “It is very impressive what he has already accomplished starting as an 8th grader on varsity which is very rare among top boys’ programs. We look forward to what lies ahead.”

Sanchez’s parents are Juan and Yvette Sanchez of Los Alamos.