by Raechel Fittante
Editor in Chief
Four years ago as a freshman she qualified for nationals in the javelin field event and represented the track and field team in Illinois. Two years ago today, she gave birth to her son Benjamin.
Today, as a senior, Socorro Gonzalez has come full circle. Not only is she qualified for nationals in two events, but she has had the best track and field season yet. Now, after a hard struggle to complete her education, 21-year-old Gonzalez is graduating with a bachelors in business management.
She won the SCIAC championships for both the shot put and the javelin field events her freshman year. This year at SCIAC she went home as champion of the shot put event. Gonzalez did this after taking her sophomore year off from track to have her son, and only partially participating in field events her junior year. “My son was little then,” she said.
As a junior, Gonzalez came back to the team at the end of the season for what she calls “a favor to Pat Widolff [head track and field coach].”
“When I came back for SCIAC my junior year, I only got to practice for a few weeks,” she said. “I ended up getting first in javelin, second in shot put.”
Known by coaches and teammates as one of the best athletes to ever grace the field, and as a dedicated student accelerated in areas of academia, Gonzalez’s record for success has made her the first person in ULV track and field history to win four individual SCIAC championships. She also holds the University’s record in the shot put with a distance of 43′ 4″, and has only lost once in the javelin.
“It is pretty outstanding that she has qualified for Nationals in two events,” said Widolff.
Raised in Baldwin Park, where she still resides and commutes from every day, Gonzalez originally ran track for Baldwin Park High School.
“I ran sprints and did the long jump, the triple jump and relays,” she said.
After being introduced to the University of La Verne by Athletic Director Jim Paschal to play women’s volleyball, once she was here, Gonzalez was then introduced to the field aspect of track and field by Widolff.
“Coach said, ‘You should try this,’ and he saw that it came naturally so he handed me over to Jim Sullenger, the throwing coach,” said Gonzalez.
“When she first started, she didn’t know what a shot put or javelin was,” said Sullenger, chuckling.
She attributes most of her success to Sullenger, who she considers the one person who has influenced her the most at ULV.
“He has always put up with me changing my hours of practice and worked around my schedule,” said Gonzalez. “He’s just a sweetie.”
“She has been a great asset to the school,” said Sullenger. “She’s a great athlete, she’s smart and she is the best shot putter we have had in three years.”
Since the birth of her son, Gonzalez has been under a pressing time schedule.
She said, smiling, “My son keeps me busy. I spend all the time that I can with him.”
“I’ve know Socorro well for four years. She has been very persistent in wanting to get her degree, and it’s been hard for her economically,” said Widolff.
He describes their relationship as “really close – I am proud of her.”
Of her recent qualifications for nationals, which will be held in La Crosse, Wis., Gonzalez feels proud, but is in the process of finding a way to bring her son with her because “I can’t leave him for five days,” she said.
“She has come along really good. If she didn’t have to work so hard at other things, no one would ever touch her,” said Sullenger.
Regarding her aspirations for nationals, Gonzalez said, “This year, I would just like to place. My freshman year, I qualified for prelims, I qualified for finals and then I choked; I just want to relax and place.”
She expresses a genuine love for competition, but describes herself getting “butterflies” during every competition.
“The further along I get in the season, the more nervous I am. But I work well under pressure. I guess it would be bad if I didn’t get nervous,” she said.
After graduation, Gonzalez plans to relax for awhile and look for a job in the summer before even thinking about graduate school. “It’s too stressful to do it right now,” she said.
She now lives with her son and his father, Benjamin Fonseca, 21, in a house with his parents. “We plan to get married when we get more money,” she said.
Right now, Gonzalez says she is ready to graduate. “I actually feel pretty good about being done with it [school, track]; since I’ve had my son, I haven’t had the time.”