Freshman runner holds third best time in school history for indoor season

By Erika Meyer, Sports Writer

Freshman runner Paula Gil-Echevarria has been competing and winning against other schools since she was 9 years old. With her determination, she developed a passion.

Running was not in Gil-Echevarria’s agenda. With racing in grade school and the support of her family, she decided to try something new.

“I tried running for a year. I liked it a lot and decided to go for it,” said Gil-Echevarria. “My dad was a runner too and my family were going to support me on whatever I decided to do.”

Coming from Madrid, Spain, Gil-Echevarria was a part of a club team for cross-country during her high school career, since high schools in Europe did not have sport teams at their school.

“In Spain it works different,” said Gil-Echevarria. “We don’t have [sports] at school, we need to be in a club.”

Before her time at EWU, Gil-Echevarria had personal bests in the 800 with a time of 2:13.80 and the 1,500 with a time of 4:41.42. She was second in the 1,500 at the Spain national 19 and under championships.

During the process of recruiting Gil-Enchevarria, she was a part of a recruiting service where they sent an email of her profile as a runner.

Gil-Enchevarria was a part of a recruiting service where they sent an email of her profile as a runner. Cross-country head coach Chris Zeller received an email in 2013 and quickly responded. He became the first coach to get in contact with the company and Gil-Echevarria.

“We get some general emails from recruiting services about athletes,” said Zeller. “[Gil-Echevarria] times jumped off the page and I wanted to make sure I was the first person to contact her. Then the process started.”

According to Zeller, contacting her for recruiting involved Skype and email through spring of 2013.

“You can tell she was the right type of person,” said Zeller. “She has tons of energy, super positive and the type of person you want on your team.”

Originally running the 800-meter and 1,500-meter courses, Gil-Enchevarria began her cross-country career in the 5,000-meter races in fall of 2013.

“[Gil-Enchevarria] was a mid-distance runner back in Spain and had done some cross-country,” said Zeller. “We definitely upped her mileage, and she was doing more volume than she had before. This was something we wanted to be careful with because she was coming off an injury and it was something we wanted to be careful with.”

Gil-Enchevarria made her appearance at the Montana State University Invitational Sept. 21, placing 31st with a time of 18:28 in the three-mile race.

As a true freshman, she continued on throughout the rest of the cross-country season with her best performance at the Inland Empire Invitational, Oct. 19 in Lewiston, Idaho, placing sixth overall in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 17:42. Gil-Enchevarria also placed 25th at the conference meet with a time of 17:52.6.

During the 2014 indoor track season, Gil-Enchevarria made her appearance at the University of Washington Indoor Preview Invitational on Jan. 18, running a time of 4:59.48 in the mile to qualify for the Big Sky Championships. This time was third best in school history.

“She is doing awesome,” said Zeller. “Her first race this indoor season, she ran our three all time for the mile. She is definitely asserting herself as one of the best milers in Eastern history.”

Her current time is 4:58:92 in the 2014 indoor season and still holds the third best in school history.

“[Gil-Enchevarria] improved her time by a second,” said women’s head coach Marcia Mecklenburg. “Even though it is by a second she is still showing improvement. I am sensing there is even more left in the tank.”

Gil-Enchevarria plans to major in physical education at EWU to become a teacher.

“I came here to study and become a teacher, but I came here to do cross-country and track with team because that is what I love,” said Gil-Enchevarria.