COTTONWOOD - Where is Monica Soliz? She could be in the pool. Is it after 5? Maybe she's running 4 miles home from swim practice. Is it Saturday? Perhaps she's finishing first in a cross country race. Have you checked the art room? The gym shooting hoops? Possibly at home solving math problems? No, I bet she's at a swim meet qualifying for state.
If you try to find her, Monica Soliz exists everywhere at once. Like an electron in constant motion, she defies Newtonian physics.
"It's so exhausting, doing two sports at once, because I have to come to swim practice, and I either run in the morning before school or I'll run right after swim practice," said Soliz. "Then I still have to go home and do schoolwork, just to get ready for the next day and do it all over again."
With arguably the toughest workout schedule in the Verde Valley, Soliz is in the best shape of her life. Four major motivations push her to excel.
1. Family "My family is always there for me, and I want to make them proud of me, and I want to be the best I can for God. I've been given these gifts, and I want to maximize what God has given me."
2. Team "Winning state in track last year was incredible; I still don't even know what to say about it. We knew we had it the whole time, but when the final results came in, we just exploded with happiness. That was the first girls track title for Mingus. It reminded me of how much I missed running. That experience motivated me to run cross country this year. I felt like I owed it to the team, to keep running with them."
3. School Pride "I want to represent my school the best I can and help us to be remembered for the time we're here. There's only four years in high school, and then you're gone. I want to make an impact, leave a mark."
4. Scholarship Opportunities "For the longest time I thought I could get a scholarship in basketball, and that's still in the back of my mind, but the way track season went, I feel like I have a better chance to run in college."
Soliz swam for the Cottonwood Clippers since age seven. She ran cross country from fourth to eight grade. She never had to choose between the two sports because junior highs don't have swim teams.
In high school she had to make a choice. For her freshman and sophomore years she only swam in the fall season . . . then an unforgettable track season happened.
After running a leg for the first place 4x800 relay, qualifying for both the 1600 and 3200 meters, and celebrating a team track title (all as a sophomore), her evident talent rejuvenated her interest in distance running.
Also committed to swimming, giving up her Marauders swim cap wasn't an option, so she asked her mother if she could do both sports.
"Absolutely not," said Mom. "We talked about it and I told her she would have to choose one because there's no way you can miss that much school. I thought it would be too hard on her, that maybe she could do it next year, but then Mr. Bostwick asked her if she could just run in the Saturday meets, and I thought, okay that sounds better. She still continued to run anyway, so she knew she could do it. Somehow she finagled her way in there."
Christine Soliz's biggest concern was her daughter's academics.
"School is the main priority and I told her she needed to make sure she got enough rest and keep her 3.8 GPA or better," said Christine Soliz. "I'm not sure if she's getting enough rest, but she's holding up her end of the bargain. Her father and I are very proud of her. She's done well."
In the last 10 years, two other Mingus athletes have pulled off swimming and running cross country at the same time. It requires a lot of trust from cross country coach Jim Bostwick: it means the athlete must run without a coach.
"She's doing everything for the team. She shows up and it gives us a big boost," said Bostwick. "She's a great teammate. Certain people in life have a leadership effect, I don't know what it is, but it rubs off on everybody else and brings them up. Monica is one of those people."
Last weekend Mingus girls' cross country missed Skler Storie and Justine Taylor, two top runners taking the ACT. Soliz stepped up and won the Bradshaw Mountain Invitational by 18 seconds and her team placed second. Earlier in the season she helped the team win the Shane Morris Invitational, and take third place at the Four Corners Invite -- a meet with 29 schools and the top talent in Northern Arizona. Remember, this is her first year running high school cross country.
On the basketball court Soliz plays wing and point guard with an accurate three-point stroke. She played a lot of varsity minutes last year and has high hopes for the team this season. She's excited to have Art Moncibaez at the helm.
"I hope we make the final four. I know it's a possibility with our new coach," said Soliz.
In the pool this season she qualified for state individually in the 100 backstroke at the Brophy Invite, and is part of three state-championship contending relay teams. Her swim coach sees the value she brings beyond her fast times.
"I knew Monica over the summer through the Clippers and I was thrilled when I found out she wanted to swim with the high school team," said first year swim coach Brendan Kenney. "She brings an intense competitiveness and incredible work ethic. She motivates herself to be the best she can be, and that's not just in the pool; I think that's in all aspects of her life. It affects the way she carries herself, the way she treats people. She's just an amazing kid, a joy to coach, and she really helps to motivate others as well as provide them with an example."
Assistant swim coach Tyler Novak also teaches art, so he gets to see the multi-faceted athlete from academic and athletic angles.
"As a swimmer, she has the probably the best work ethic. There's other swimmers like her, but no one outworks Mo," said Novak. "She's a very talented artist, and she designed the artwork for the swim-team senior hoodies this year. Just like she does in sports, she works very hard in art. She does clay, graphite, painting, you name it. I think with her work ethic and her ability, she can score well in AP Studio Art next year. It's a tough thing, but when she sets her mind to something, she does it all the way."
With that in mind, it's a shame Soliz wont be able to compete in the cross country state meet because the AIA scheduled it the same day as the state swim meet. In years past top endurance athletes have been able to compete in both. Soliz will have to wait for next year for that opportunity.
Then again, competing in two sports simultaneously might be too much to ask of Soliz next year. On top of AP Studio Art, Soliz plans to take AP Calculus her senior year. After high school she wants to apply her excellent design and math skills to architecture. For a motivated young woman of diverse talents, her toughest challenge might be slowing down.
Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Article comment by:
Just re-reading this article for the ba-zillionth time since it was published, and I want to emphasize how true every word in it is. Not only is Monica a driving force behind the swim and cross country teams, but the best teammate that you could ever ask for. I compete for the Mingus Cross Country team with her, and I'm exuberantly grateful to have Mo as a teammate. She always comes with a good attitude--ready to work, regardless of how tired she is, and NEVER lets the team down. Thanks for all you do. <3
Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2012
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Just an update. Monica went down Friday to swim at State swim meet. Then Saturday ran in state xc meet finishing 20th place and earning honorable mention all state honors. Hope you take a day off Sunday before starting basketball practice Monday!!!!! you earned it.
Posted: Monday, October 15, 2012
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Congratulations, Monica! Thank you for all your hard work - you set such a good example to your fellow team members (and their parents!). Excellence is a choice that few people make - keep up the great attitude and work ethic!
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Article comment by:
I knew you would succeed at what ever you chose to do in your life, it was apparent from the very beginning when I taught you in First Grade!
It is wonderful to see what a talented, beautiful and smart young women you have become, kudos to your family for their support!
Congratulations Monica on all your successes!
Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
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Wonderful story and amazing young woman! Best to her!