Diego Courbis, the 2017 Big West Conference champion in the 400-meter hurdles, is training in Santander, Spain, where he was raised, to compete in several elite meets and to visit his friends and family this summer (his parents still live there).
Courbis, heading into his junior year at Cal State Fullerton this fall, will compete in Pamplona as well as the U23 Nationals, where he placed fifth in 2016. He will also compete in the Spanish National Championship, where he will go against some of the world's best athletes.
He hopes the overseas competition will help him when he faces pros after graduation.
"I'm always excited to go home and see my parents and friends of course," Courbis said, "but I love having the chance every year of being able to run with top-notch athletes and run in such thrilling meets."
Courbis, who is majoring in communications with an advertisement concentration, has also been training with Olympic high jump champion Ruth Beitia every day, a teammate of Courbis' since he was about 9 years old. He said Beitia is a great example and motivation for him to strive for better.
"It's an honor to have the chance to grow under her wing," he said.
Though Courbis has found it challenging not to have a group of athletes in his event to train with like he has at Fullerton, he is benefiting from the fierce competition of meets, which has allowed him to see where he stacks up internationally.
"I've been running against the best athletes of the country so it's been quite a fun and challenging ride so far," Courbis said. "Running against these kinds of people makes you realize that you can't get distracted at all and that you will always have to work hard if what you want is to be part of the that group of athletes that make it to top in this sport."
The experience has made him a more seasoned athlete, as running presents challenges not just physically but mentally.
"I think these kinds of experiences have made me a more confident athlete whenever I'm facing tough rivals and to be able to keep my cool when most people would crumble against pressure," Courbis said. "In a sport like track and field, the mental aspect is as or even more important than the physical side of it, and being able to control your emotions and nerves when things turn against you is key."
"This experience has made me a more mature runner," he continued, "and it will help me greatly along the rest of my athletic career."
Courbis, who claimed the Big West crown with a time of 52.30, the first win in the 400 hurdles for Cal State Fullerton since Roberto Archibold in 2008, has high hopes for Fullerton's upcoming season.
He aims to defend his Big West title and run consistently under 52 seconds and get closer to 50 seconds in the 400 hurdles. He also strives to be more competitive on the national level, as he said that when he competed in NCAA Regionals, he felt his body wasn't at the same condition as his competitors.
He also hopes to help the Titans repeat as Big West champions, as the program won its first-ever crown in 2017.
"There's nothing I would love more that seeing this school's program to start and become a consistent winning program and a contender with the conference champion every year," Courbis said. "We have an amazing and talented team so my advice for rest of the schools of our conference is to watch out for us. We aren't in this conference to take part of it, we are here to take over it."
This article is written by Mirin Fader from Orange County Register and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.