April 3, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
It takes an exceptional athlete to earn a collegiate athletic scholarship, but gaining two scholarships in different sports is very rare feat indeed. When she enrolls at Stanislaus State University in the fall, Eastlake High senior, Rachel Naranjo, will arrive with both soccer and track scholarships in her duffle bag. While there, she hopes to study in the field of health care. Her athletic achievements will help to make pursuing that dream possible and affordable.
Her track coach, Joe Stubbs, knew that there was something special about right from the get go.
“The first time Rachel came out to run with me she was a freshman running against a group of seniors. During the first part of the workout she took the lead and tried to run away from them. She is not afraid of anybody or anything. That is a testament to her self belief and the courage that she has.”
Four years later she has established herself as one of the county’s premier 800 meter competitors and she contributes to the Titans 4X4 relay team as well. A year ago she claimed the Mesa League title is both events. This year she is shooting for the school record.
“Rachel is about as competitive a person you would ever hope to meet,” Stubbs said. “She always gives her best to anything she attempts. She’s is driven and she doesn’t want to do anything unless she can do it excellently. She is a very strong willed person, but in a good way. When she puts her spikes on and steps onto the track, she is all business.”
For Naranjo, track has been an acquired taste.
“During my freshman year I was just into soccer until one of my best friends dragged me out for cross country. When I found out that I could run long distances I decided to stay with it,” Naranjo said.
Having played team sports all of her life competing in track has given her a different perspective.
“Running track is something I can do on my own. Running cross country and track allows me to prove what I can do independently. While cross country and track are team sports to a point, when you are out there running your race it becomes your time and your race.”
Having reached the CIF Preliminaries last year, her goal this year is to break into the CIF Finals. Her coach believes that she has the ability to do it, but that is not her only goal.
“My time right now (in the 800) is a 2:28. In previous years at this point in the season I was running about a 2:35, so I feel like I am progressing. By the end of the season I would like to hit at least 2:20 because that is the school record.”