By Jenna Webster
Town Crier Editorial Intern
Annabriza Melchor fell in love with the hurdles as a 10-year-old representing Santa Rita School at the Junior Olympics, not knowing it would lead her to become the top hurdler on the Los Altos High girls track and field team.
Melchor competed in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles – with personal-best times of 15.9 and 47.1 seconds, respectively – before her senior season came to an early end because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Melchor always liked to run, adding the element of hurdles to the mix was a welcome challenge.
“I really liked the idea of the short sprints, but with the hurdles there it just gave me something else to focus on as well,” Melchor said. “They’re not easy to go over.”
She admitted – albeit jokingly – that, “I actually find them really scary. I don’t know why I do them.”
After realizing her passion for track at the Junior Olympics, Melchor joined the Peninsula Flyers Youth Track and Field Club and has been training with the organization for five years.
“I like the community and the family that you make with the team, and it’s not just people with your own event, it can be people outside your event,” she said.
One of Melchor’s favorite races was when she ran her best time in the 300 hurdles, the event that’s also her least favorite of the two.
“I was struggling and I kept getting like 50s, 53s – and all the sudden this whopping 47 came out and I was, like, ‘Wait,’” Melchor said. “That was really huge for me.”
She added that her biggest challenge is keeping a positive mindset, because “it’s not usually your body strength, it’s like a mind sport,” she said. Melchor reminds herself not to think negatively or else that could impact how she runs.
“I just kind of look ahead at the hurdles and I just kind of think, ‘This is it. Just do what you do,’” she said about her pre-race routine.
Robyn Hughes, who has been the hurdles coach at Los Altos for eight years, described Melchor as a great teammate who is dedicated to the sport.
“She has an incredible passion and love for hurdles and track,” said Hughes, also a Spanish teacher at the school. “She just wants to do better all the time and she’s willing to do anything to get better.”
Hughes added that Melchor “would’ve just dominated” this season, had it not been canceled after one meet.
“I was actually really devastated,” Melchor said. “I really wanted to prove myself to colleges and myself, of course. I was really sad for a while, but then I thought I can use this time to come back faster instead of just not doing anything.”
Her club coach sends out weekly workouts for her to do, and every other Saturday she times her sprints. Melchor said she’s seeing improvement in her times. However, she hasn’t been able to run the hurdles because the school tracks do not have them available for use during the closure.
Melchor has been sending videos of her performances to the track coaches at the University of Oregon – the school she is attending in the fall – in hopes of making the team as a walk-on.
“Before this season started, I kind of thought, ‘Do I want this to be the last season of my life or do I want to continue for another four years?’” she said. “When I saw it like that, I knew I’m not ready to stop running track and I’m not ready to stop competing, because I love it so much.”
Melchor plans to study human physiology at Oregon and eventually wants to be a physical therapist. She was inspired by her own physical therapist, who last year helped her recover from a stress fracture in her foot.
“I really like the idea of helping people,” Melchor said. “I just couldn’t see myself doing something that doesn’t involve sports.”
Over the past few years, the biggest thing she’s learned from track is how to be more confident.
“I struggled with that a lot before I started running track,” she said. “When I started running track and I knew and saw that I was actually fast, I started gaining more confidence in my running, and that just gave me more confidence in myself.”