Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo
NAPLES — Victoria Guerra has a dream of Olympic proportions.
To try and make that dream a reality, the 15-year-old sprinter can be seen three days a week toiling under the blazing sun on the track at Naples High School, where Guerra will be a sophomore in the fall.
It’s said on the higher levels of track and field that races are not won at the meet but in practice. At such a young age, Guerra, who won district and regional titles in the 100 and 200 meters as a freshman, already understands this. For Guerra, there is no off-season.
“Most of the time when you get a really good athlete, they don’t have a matching work ethic,” said Naples girls track head coach Stanley Bryant, who is out there with his athlete each day. “Quite frankly, it’s quite the opposite. Rarely do you get a kid as talented as Victoria that has such a great attitude and always wants to work hard. When you do get one, you feel the responsibility as a coach to help them excel and reach their potential.”
Guerra, who placed fifth at the 3A state meet in the 200, realizes if she want to get where she wants to go, she’ll have to outwork the competition.
“To be the best, you have to train all year,” she said. “Girls (that run for schools) in Miami never stop. I want to be the best. Coming out here in the summer will help keep me in shape. When track season comes around, I’ll be at the top of my game.”
Guerra is so focused on track glory that she will not play soccer in the fall as she did last year. Rather, she will focus on the intricacies of sprinting that make really fast people faster.
“You definitely have to know the technique, because sprinting is very mechanical,” she said. “But you definitely have to be fast to begin with. You’re not going to get fast out of nowhere.”
Bryant, a star quarterback and safety for the Golden Eagles in the late 1990s, and Guerra spend their time on the track dissecting the youngster’s race, working on starts and drive phase, speed endurance and weight training.
“Out here, we’re breaking down the different phases of the race,” said Bryant, also an assistant coach for the football team. “We’re not focused on times. It’s about just keep moving, fixing some of the flaws she has and the mental game. A lot of little things.”
Guerra feels she needs to work most on the last 20 meters of her events, the weakest part of her race according to her, although her coach sees it otherwise.
“The reality is, if you ever watched her race, is that her strength is the last 20 meters,” Bryant pointed out. “At that point in the race she does a great job of maintaining technique and focusing on not slowing down. She’s able to pass people up or pull away.”
Guerra didn’t realize her talent until she was an eighth grader at Gulfview Middle School. She did well at area track meets and was encouraged by her parents, especially her father, Jonathan, to pursue track.
“I just started winning, but I didn’t know that much about track,” said Guerra. “I realized I might have a shot at this and I got really serious about the sport. My dad really helped me and wanted me to excel in this because he saw how good I was. He helped me find coaches and get organized.”
Her goals are pretty simple at this point, with one golden exception.
“I just want continue to work with coach Bryant until track season,” Guerra said. “I don’t want to have to get back into shape when the season comes around. I already want to be in top shape. No other sports. I’m just a flat-out sprinter. I definitely want to go to the Olympics someday.”