By John Newton
La Voz Latina
GEORGIA — Because of the nature of their sport, long-distance runners have to be mentally strong as well as physically fit.
Stan Parker, who coaches the cross-country team at Tattnall County High School in Reidsville, Ga., puts it this way.
“With distance events, runners have to worry about the opening pace, whether it is too fast or too slow, make sure they are in the best position for their styles of finish, and avoid getting boxed in by other runners, or being blown away at the end of the race by an opponent with a stronger kick,” Parker said. “As far as training goes, distance runners have to push themselves to get in the extra miles, force themselves to stay on a set pace over the distance and still get in speed work and build strength throughout the season. It is literally a year-round drive, so mentally, these individuals have to be tough.”
By Coach Parker’s standards, Irving Melo, a student at Tattnall County High School, is one of the best long-distance runners in South Georgia. Last year the 17-year-old Latino posted record-setting times in the 1600 and 3200 meter events at both the high school and Region-AA levels.
Melo’s family is originally from Mexico City but moved to Glennville, Ga. in the heart of Sweet Onion Country about 10 years ago. Irving first became interested in running when he was in the 6th grade.
“I heard my classmates talking about our school track & field try-outs so I gave it a try,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what event I wanted to compete in but my coach wanted to see my performance in both the mile and mile and a half and I had success in both.”
According to Coach Parker, Melo has not allowed success to swell his ego.
“When Irving was a freshman several of the older guys heard about how fast he was and before the first day of practice they were giving him a hard time about stepping up into “the big leagues” with seniors,” Parker said. “Irving was so shy then I never heard him say a word. But at the first practice he literally left all the trash-talkers in the dust, and has continued to be the fastest distance runner in our school. Irving rarely can be found without a smile on his face, except just before race time, when you can see the determination to win take over. He gets quiet, the smile fades and his eyes seem to focus on the end of the race before it has begun.”
Melo will be a High School senior this fall and is determined to improve his running skills.
“Coach Parker is always teaching me new techniques to improve my running,” he said. “My goal as an athlete has always been to be the best at what I’m doing, which includes winning State titles for both Cross Country & Track and after that to get ready for the next big event!”
Coach Parker has no doubt that Melo is capable of achieving his dreams.
“Irving has broken every long distance record at our school, except one,” Parker said. “He is a double-region champion, and one of the fastest runners in the state, probably the fastest south of Macon, GA. But he is not cocky. That is one of the best qualities about him. He could be completely arrogant, but that is just not him. His parents have done a great job raising him to be a responsible, respectful young man. And the same can be said for his brothers, Manuel and Miguel, they are all good people to be around.”
After graduation next spring, Melo hopes to kick his skills up a notch and compete at the university level…
Finish reading Latino student Irving Melo: record-setting runner