By DAMIN ESPER
SAN MATEO -- Veronica Valenton was getting ready to run the 800 meters at the Aragon Don Invitational on Saturday April 7 when Livermore High School distance coach Eddie Salazar gave her an instruction: Run the first lap in 70 seconds.
"He said it didn't matter if I crawled the second lap," Valenton said.
Fortunately, the junior didn't have to do that. Valenton ended up winning the event in two minutes, 23.30 seconds. She also won the 400 in 1:01.65 and finished second in the 1,600 in 5:32.77 behind teammate Anne Le (5:30.37).
"Based on what I was seeded, I had expected to place," Valenton said. "But I didn't expect to place that high. It was a suprise."
Valenton is the fifth of seven children and three of her older brothers have run for Salazar along with her younger sister Viviana, who is a freshman. Viviana Valenton swept the frosh-soph girls 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the meet, and her time in the 1,600 (5:27.44) would have been good enough to win the varsity race.
Veronica Valenton said she likes having her sister on the team.
"I know one motivation for me is having my sister around because she's a constant compeition," she Valenton said. "We're trying to do better than each other but it's pushing us in a good way. I know I started feeling more motivation when she started."
Valenton started running in third grade.
"This was the first actual sport I joined," she said. "And it kind of just stuck. And it was easier for my parents. If we were all in the same sport they could take us to the same place for practice."
Her goals for the season are to break 60 seconds in the 400, 2:20 in the 800 and 5:15 for the 1,600. She is learning how to use starting blocks in the sprint, and also learning how to run on her toes more. For the future, she would love to continue running in college.
"It's not exactly something I can let go of having started at such a young age," she said. "I'm still not sure what college I want to go to. I have gotten a few letters."
It was expected to be a stormy weekend in San Mateo but the system cleared out and the afternoon was quite pleasant. Many of the area's top athletes were at the Arcadia Invitational, giving several other kids a chance to shine.