Running With Family: Ian and Iker Sanchez Lopez
TUCSON, Ariz. – The newest distance runners have been making some noise in the 2022 indoor season. The freshman Ian and Iker Sanchez Lopez hail from Aguascalientes, Mexico where they initially picked up their love for distance running.
The brothers have accomplished quite a bit before their collegiate career. Both brothers have qualified for the 2022 U20 World Championships in Colombia for the 1500m, 3000m, and the 5000m. Ian also unofficially holds the U20 Mexican record for the 3000m, which his brother Iker also broke.
A former Wildcat, second team NCAA Indoor All-American Carlos Villareal, was an iconic Wildcat to the brothers. Seeing the success that a Mexican athlete could achieve at the University of Arizona drew them towards the program, especially with performances like his bronze medal in the Pan-American Games.
Once they arrived at Arizona, their work ethic was noticeable right away to Distance Coach Bernard Lagat, "These guys are so meticulous. They like training and they like to train the way you give it to them. That is how progress is made." Not only did their work ethic turn heads, but their personalities as well, "Whenever they show up for practice…they just go fist bumping everybody and show up with a smile even with the limited English they had when they arrived… but deep inside is the most competitive athletes I have ever seen."
That hard work and training showed itself quickly in their first meet as Wildcats with a strong statement in the Lumberjack Team Challenge in Flagstaff. Ian finished first in his heat of the mile with an adjusted time of 4:06.28, which was the seventh fastest time in the Pac-12. His time is the fastest any Wildcat has run this season in the mile. Adjusted times are times that were changed due to the altitude of the place the athlete was competing with higher altitudes like Flagstaff being adjusted to compare to how that same athlete would have ran in a lower altitude such as Los Angeles. Both athletes competed throughout the rest of the indoor season, including solid performances at the Pac-12 Invitational.
Coach Lagat has high hopes for the newest members of his distance squad, "They have the 'it' factor. They are built to run. To me, I feel like there is no ceiling for these boys but the immediate height they could get is going to nationals in outdoor, and that is only their starting point."