HIGH SCHOOL TRACK: Monahans’ Santiago pushes past disability

Hope Santiago hasn’t let her disability get in the way of dominating the track and field world.

The freshman from Monahans, who competes in a wheelchair, only continues to get better, whether she’s competing at the Texas Regional Paralympic games, the junior nationals or the UIL State Track and Field Championships.

Santiago, who’s only been competing in the sport for four years now, has continued to collect gold medal after gold medal.

Her most recent success included a first-place finish in 100-meter dash at the 2019 UIL State Track and Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas, winning with a time of 20.71 seconds.

“It meant a lot to me,” Santiago said. “My hard work paid off for me in the 100 and it’s an amazing feeling. I was like, I knew I was coming very close and I couldn’t believe that I had done it.”

It wasn’t the only event in which she finished in the top three.

She logged in a second-place finish in the shot put with a throw of 15-feet while finishing third in the 400 meters in a time of one minute and 21.04 seconds.

Santiago was born with sacral agenesis, a condition when all or part of the lower spine does not form.

Despite the 400 meters not being her top event, Hope’s time at state was a personal record.

“It was pretty good. In the 400, that’s not my best event but to be able to PR in that event,” Santiago said. “It felt good to do well in that event. I was expecting to get first in the 100 but I was expecting to do well. I was just hoping to do well in the 400.”

Hope’s rigorous training schedule for the state track meet wouldn’t be much different from what the rest of the Monahans track team was doing.

“It was like every day I would practice at the school and do some weights and take ice baths,” Santiago said. “Before the meet, we did some pool workouts and sometimes I would get on the road and workout. When I go around with my dad, I would go around town and around the school and my house. We would go across town as well. On the track, I would do 400s and 100s and do 50- second drills.”

She usually gets to the 300-meter mark in the 50-second drill.

Her training for the shot put involves a lot of weight lifting and using a separate chair when throwing.

“For the field events, I would get in the chair that I do shot put in and do a couple of throws and lift weights,” Santiago said.

Her father, Angel Santiago has coached her for the last four years.

It was about two years ago when he realized just how good Hope could be in track and field.

“When we took her to regionals for the junior nationals a few years ago, she had run a 20.75 and the lady there that was programming the numbers and she asked what grade she was in and when we told her that she was in seventh, she was amazed,” Angel said. “We’ve been tracking her ever since and this is the first time that someone has really started out dominant in the wheelchair event in high school and hopefully, Hope is on the right track.”

The UIL State Championships wasn’t the only meet she competed in this month.

Just a week prior, Hope competed at the Texas Regional Games in San Antonio where she came home with seven gold medals and one silver and qualified for the junior nationals in Minnesota in July.

At the moment, she’s currently easing herself back into form as she starts to prepare for the nationals.

“Right now, we’re getting back into the season,” Hope Santiago said. “Track ended a couple of weeks ago. Basically, I’ll do the same kind of training only with my dad.”

While she knows that she has already set the bar high as a freshman, Hope aims to continue to set the standard higher over her next three years of high school.

“My goals are to qualify for state throughout my next three years of high school,” she said. I want to break the record in the 100 meters.”

She also has the Paralympics in her future plans.

“I want to go to college and get my degree in nursing,” Hope said. “And then of course, I want to be a paralympian as well.”

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