Nov. 8, 2012
By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Laura Galvan grew up in the community of Guanajuato, which is located in absolute central Mexico.
With her parents – Ramon Galvan Arredondo and Andrea Rodriguez Barrera – having never strayed too far from home, there was a concern when their daughter, Laura Galvan, announced that she wanted to attend Kansas State University to continue her track and field career.
“They thought I was going to the North Pole,” said Galvan. “We all thought it would be very, very cold - North Pole-type of cold, so that part was very scary.”
She would add, “I had never seen snow before except in movies. That was really different.”
Kansas State distance coach Michael Smith first saw Galvan run when she was on the Mexico Junior National team and competing in California.
“I was with a friend who they were recruiting,” said Galvan. “I remembered he gave her his (business) card with his phone number. I so wished I could get one of those cards, but he wasn’t interested.”
Later, however, Smith and K-State did become interested, but it took Smith traveling to Guanajato to meet her family to make the Wildcat sale.
“My folks were concerned in the distance,” said Galvan. “I told coach he would have to come to my home. After they met him, then it was OK to come.”
With Galvan’s parents speaking zero English and Smith only some Spanish, the K-State coach said, “I knew enough to get my point across, but there was also a lot of sign language. I can assure you, I had a headache at the end.”
But there was one more problem. Galvan knew very, very limited English – “I could say, ‘Hi’,” she laughed – so there was no way she could pass the NCAA-required SAT test out of her high school of Escuela Preparatoria Oficial de Guanajuato.
“I went to Guanajuato and studied with a tutor for 17 hours per week,” said Galvan, who first arrived on campus in January of 2011. “When I first got here I still had trouble communicating, but coach knew a little Spanish and we had some students from Puerto Rico on the team that helped some.”
Today Galvan, a member of the Big 12’s All-Academic team, says, “no comparison” to the life she lives compared to her high school years.
“My school was 45 minutes away by school bus, and I had to make the trip four times a day,” said Galvan. “I was up by 5:30, on the bus at 6, back home at 2, and then back on the bus around 5 to go back to practice until at least 8. It was horrible. I was tired all the time.”
Now at K-State, she’s carrying a 3.4 GPA in food science with the help of “… getting my eight hours of sleep, I eat right and there is plenty of time to study.”
In early-meets this fall, Galvan has raced as K-State’s No. 1 runner finishing second in Wichita, first in Lincoln, Neb., seventh at the Rim Rock Classic in Lawrence, 36th in the Pre-National meet in Louisville, Ky., with a personal-best time of 20:52.6 for the 6K distance, and most recently 11th at the Big 12 Championships.
“She’s exceeded our expectations,” said Smith. “She’s had a lot of transitions, which includes training at a high level for the first time. She’s training at the level of some of our good ones of the past, but she just hasn’t raced to that level.”
For Galvan, she understands that it is a process: “If I keep training, I know good things will happen. That’s what brought me here, to train hard and improve. Running has opened a lot of doors. That’s why I’m here. If I continue to improve, there are more doors. If I keep training harder and stay healthy, I will be able to compete at the highest level.
“I have the motivation knowing that if I do good here, I’ll really be good in Mexico,” said Galvan. “My goal is to go home and have my country cheer for me. My dream is to be in the Olympics in four years. We’ll see what happens, but that’s my plan. My dream.”
Smith is going to do nothing to dampen that dream because of Galvan’s attitude.
"Laura once said to me, ‘I am in your hands. Mold me,’” Smith said. "She told us that she will listen and do what we ask her to. If there is an athlete who buys in and is completely on board, there are fewer limits because they will do what they have to do. As long as we do a good job of preparing her, she will be very successful.”
Galvan will be competing Friday in Springfield, Mo., at the NCAA Midwest Regional. To qualify for the NCAA Championships later in the month in Louisville, Ky., she will need a top four finish out of those runners who are not on the top two teams.
“We think she’s right on the bubble,” said Smith. “If she’s in the Top 10, that should be able to do it. She’s had a great season, but I still think there’s a best race still in her.”
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.