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Who We Are: Ian and Iker Sanchez Lopez

Oct 4, 2022

In the world of running, a good teammate is someone who will cheer you on and support you. However, a great teammate is someone who will compete with you and push you to work harder every day.
For twins Ian Sanchez Lopez and Iker Sanchez Lopez, they are not only great running teammates, but great "teammates of life."
"Our father always promoted healthy competition. That's really important in our process because it's much easier when you have a teammate that is much more than a teammate," said Iker.
"People could think that's something that could generate problems, but I think it's more useful. For example, I know what I need to do or what shape I need to be in to be a competitive athlete. It's pretty easy, I just need to look at my teammate. If he's able to be in that shape or win something or get a good result, why am I not able to do that?" added Ian. 
It's no surprise that the boys followed their father's advice given the impact their parents have had on their lives.
"I would say that our father and our mother are the most important people for our success," said Iker.
Hailing from Aguascalientes, Mexico, family has always been a big deal… literally. Both their father and mother have 12 siblings, giving Ian and Iker a plethora of aunts, uncles, and cousins. On top of that, the twins are the youngest in their own family, having two older sisters and one older brother. While the family may be separated, with one sister in Germany, a brother in Canada, the parents in Mexico, and the twins here in Tucson, the family still makes it a priority to stay connected. One big part of this is Ian and Iker's ability to stay connected to their Hispanic roots in Mexico.
"I don't try to remove this part of me that is from Mexico," said Ian. "For me it's very important to keep my culture with the things that I like to do in Mexico. The food, the values, the traditions. I think for me being Hispanic is something that makes me proud."
It's not just Ian who celebrates his Hispanic heritage though. "I feel really proud of my origin, and I feel a really big responsibility because I am not just representing me or my family, I am representing my whole country," Iker conveyed. "I try to work really hard to represent and to give a good image of Mexican athletics."

Their heritage is not just limited to who they are as athletes, as the two continue to celebrate their origin through Mexican traditions, holidays, and values. Even though the two weren't in Mexico for Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16, it was still a day where they celebrated and felt proud of their Mexican origin.
Back home with their huge extended family, some of the two's favorite memories growing up revolve around Mexican holidays. For these parties, everyone would meet at their grandma's house to join in on the festivities. One of Iker's favorites is called kermes, which would occur for holidays like El Día de los Muertos.
"Kermes is when everyone brings a dish of food. It's fun because you can do a lot of activities and basically eat a lot of food, which is the fun part. We also used to do activities together like playing sports, especially fútbol. It's different when it's in the family because it has a better meaning. It's more significant."
For Ian, the celebration of Las Posadas is one that brings him a lot of happiness.
"That is like the night before Christmas. You make dinner together and do different activities. My grandma used to make us food and drinks and we would break piñatas. We ate a lot of candies, so that was a good memory of when I was young. I think that was the best activity I did with the family."
Seeing the campus-wide embracement of Hispanic Heritage Month here at the University of Arizona has been powerful for the two as they try to maintain a connection to their roots. They're proud of the school's emphasis on celebrating a culture that is so closely associated with the school itself.
"It made me feel proud of my origins. I think we have a lot of Hispanic people; we have a lot of things to celebrate here. I'm happy to belong to this culture," said Ian.
Iker added, "I think that if you have a big community of Hispanic people, it's a pretty good idea to make them feel proud
of their origin. That is something that the University of Arizona is doing very well at. It's important to celebrate not just the things that we share but also our differences."
That close connection between Tucson and Mexico was something the boy's considered when choosing where to attend college. They knew that a culture change was imminent but hoped that Tucson's proximity and historical connection to their country would ease the difficulties of the adjustment. The university's embracement of their Hispanic culture has also helped make that difficult jump a little bit easier.
Balancing being a student-athlete, while adjusting to a new culture has been difficult at times, but the Sanchez twins have been able to use the wide array of resources at their disposal, such as C.A.T.S Academics. Growing up, their parents not only instilled in them the importance of healthy competition but also the importance of being good students. While their major technically remains undecided, the two are looking to continue as "teammates of life" in engineering. They understand the hard work and dedication this will require but are looking forward to doing something that they will love.
"I am really excited to study something that I like, to study something that I think could make me happy," said Iker. "Because the athletics career one day is going to be done and we need to think about the future as well."
The boys' insatiable work ethic as both students and athletes has paid massive dividends in the running department. Inspired by the healthy competition pushed by their father, the two have seen impressive results in only their first season of cross country. Most recently at the Dave Murray Invitational the twins both posted new personal bests in the 8k and finished in the top-four for the event. Ian finished second overall with a time of 23:57.5 and Iker finished fourth overall with a time of 24:07.0.
With results like that, one might question the delay of the boys' cross country debuts. However, growing up the two focused on track due to cross country's lack of popularity in Mexico. As they continue to train, adapt, and experience life as cross country runners, there's no doubt that lowered personal bests and more top finishes are in their future.
"Since we started running our goal was to get a scholarship at an American university," Ian explained. "It's a big opportunity to improve and be competitive. It's good for us to be able to represent the university."
They have certainly represented the University of Arizona well, helping the men's team win their most recent cross country meet with the Dave Murray Invitational.