Once again it was time to join our voices in song for our University’s anthem. The “Justas LAI” did not fail to bring us all closer and celebrate our athletes’ accomplishments and hard work. It is a very emotionally-charged moment for the athletes to be standing there in front of the colegiales cheering for them all dressed in green. Even though some of them weren’t able to participate in this year’s “Justas,” the excitement still remains.
One of these is our very own “Judoka,” Deyaneira Libran, whose gold medal last year placed our University’s name high. Her hard work began even before she was on the team, arduously preparing all summer long. Being completely honest about the hardships being a student-athlete implicates, she told us that the secret to succeeding in both things is really wanting it, and in the end “you truly feel proud to be able to say that I’m a student and an athlete of el Colegio.” This year, she cheered for her sister who was competing and she’s preparing for next year to keep bringing medals home and “put Colegio’s name higher.” She goes as far as to letting newbies know about the amazing feeling that awaits, when every person dressed in green was cheering for them. Knowing that this was my first time (Gabrielle Armstrong) competing with the Dance Team in las “Justas,” she told me about the amazing feeling that awaited me.
Another “Judoka,” who wasn’t able to compete this year, is third-year student Mark Anthony Pagan who shares the same passion all of us enjoy; eating. This passion leads him to have rigorous diets, like the one of “water and grapes” on weighting day, to fit in his weight category. From the beginning, his coach saw potential in him, which led him to eventually join the team he now calls his family. Mark points out that the lifestyle of a student-athlete, although challenging, is heavily rewarding as well, “I have grown as an athlete, as a student, and as a person.” Always proud of his accomplishments during competitions, he aspires for more through hard work and dedication.
Moving on to one of our record breakers is Alex “Cuba” Hernández, who certainly did not fail to impress upon competing in this year’s “Justas.” He finished with a total of three gold medals in all of his individual events and, also, set new records. He managed to win silver in the 50m free swim and gold on the “relevo.” The past member of Cuba’s national swim team, shared his secret, which is is to always give it his best, stay focused, and listen to the coach’s corrections. This year’s accomplishments didn’t come out of nowhere; last year he was MVP of the year and during the “Justas” competition in December, he won and set records in the five events he participated in. The fishing lover and Mechanical Engineering student’s future is promising; he will keep on making us Tarzanes and Juanas proud!
Another winner this year is Jorge Orlando Rodriguez, whose softball team brought home the second place. A member of both the softball and baseball team, the Electric Engineering student is sure-heartedly “proud of representing the colors white and green; a dream come true” and hopes to bring many more trophies to our Colegio.
Taekwondo star and Sociology major, Amanda Nicole Casiano is another athlete who feels her athletic life has improved her whole life in every sense. Having joined the team last January, during try-outs she managed to win both qualifying fights, improving as a person and as an athlete. She states that she has had to face situations in which she has had to assume leadership and balance her complex, yet rewarding athletic life. Being so involved in training and improving as an athlete has made her develop a sense of academic discipline that she is very proud of. All of her hard work paid off last December when she achieved the position of Sub-Champion in her +68 kg category during the LAI competitions. Yet, the hard work doesn’t stop there, don’t miss her this December during the next LAI competitions.
Senior and volleyball player Jeancarlos Negrón has been working hard for his team since he obtained a full scholarship in his freshman year. Not only does he train and study, he is also a talented singer, musician, dancer, and model. Sadly, his time at Colegio is coming to an end and he shares that, like most seniors, he feels his time has gone by too fast. He is taking his memories and lessons with him when departing from el Colegio, carrying the colors of his alma mater in his heart with him for the rest of his life. He is proud to say that he will soon be an ex-alum and that he has completed his role on the team while accomplishing his goals. Having to manage practices, training, and studying, all while maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an ability that will help him with his professional career later on.
Fellow Biology major and departing senior is cheer captain Alanna del Mar Alicea. She recounted how she feels everything started abruptly; she went from being the typical 7-year-old doing gymnastics to a motivated student joining las Juanas cheer team by her assistant coach Adriana Santos. Her sacrifices have paved the way to a eventful cheer career, having been named freshman of the year, later achieving female MVP of her sophomore year, and being named captain of the team in her junior year. Despite the athlete life being rigorous and demanding, the late night studying and early morning practices have given her the opportunity to stand tall and represent her beloved Colegio. She is thankful for her coach, who has believed in her since day one. Being these her last “Justas,” she appreciates the support Colegio fans have given her. Ironically, she feels that this last year has made her blood greener and her emotions greater – the long hours to reach this stage have been worth it for the chance to reach her and her team’s dreams.
The “Justas” have come to an end for us, and for some athletes. Yet, the blood, sweat, and tears have all lead to this moment; the moment where emotions rage, records are broken, and legends are made. We thank every single athlete, without them the Colegio name would be nothing in “Las Justas LAI.” We thank the graduating seniors that will remember these moments so bittersweetly. We thank the first timers that have enjoyed their first taste of full fledged Colegio pride. We thank the athletes who are fighting against the clock to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves and their teams. And, lastly, we thank “la fanaticada” for supporting las Juanas and los Tarzanes in their victories and their loses. While the 2016 “Justas” have gone, the sea of green and white colegiales filling the stadium seats armed with their rumbling hymns will never be over, much less forgotten.
*Photo Credit: Huella Deportiva