Daniela Zavala never considered herself to be a runner. But the introduction to cross country by a friend of hers has sparked an interest in the sport.
“I think that it was kind of something new that I wanted to try,” says Zavala. “At first, I had a little bit of hesitation. Once I started, it was kind of hard at first, because you have to pace yourself and learn how to breathe. But as time went by, I got the hang of it.”
As a sophomore and two-year varsity runner for Cornelia Connelly High School, Zavala enjoys the feeling of being free that running provides, an escape for a few brief moments from the heavy responsibilities of school and life. And the pride she feels representing the Koalas is why she loves the sport the most.
“Representing my high school is being there and giving my best in all that I can,” says Zavala, “and being surrounded by all of my teammates and having that Connelly bond with my sisters.”
In only her second year as a runner, Zavala has had a steep learning curve. Juggling her academics has been a challenge, but the 15-year old has gained several life skills.
“Through all that time I’ve spent, I’ve learned to make relationships with other people and have a stronger bond,” says Zavala. “If you want something, you have to excel and go that extra step. You have to have the mindset to not give up on anything that you want to do in life.”
Connelly cross country head coach, Evelyn Gomez, knows that she will always get a positive attitude and a committed work ethic with Zavala on the team.
“Daniela is definitely a leader, not your typical verbal leader, but she leads by example,” says Gomez. “She shows up to practice and gives it 110%. She always comes with a smile, ready to work hard, and that’s very admirable of an athlete.”
When she’s not running or training, Zavala serves her community by volunteering a few times a month at a local food bank, where she and family members package food for the underserved and those in need.
The Anaheim resident’s future plans include staying with athletics, specifically running, throughout her high school and college years, with the future goal of developing and working in a family business.
The person who always comes to mind for Zavala when asked about role models is her older brother. He currently works as a basketball coach, something she truly admires about him.
“He’s always inspired me to try [my] best,” says Zavala, “and just do what you want to do in life.”