Many high school athletes dream of playing sports in college and beyond, but only a small percentage actually get the opportunity to compete at the highest levels. For Alpine High School 2016 graduate Elena Cano, she is doing just that at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Born and raised in Alpine, Cano’s love of sports began early. At three years old she took up tee-ball, followed by soccer, then basketball in elementary school.
In middle school, she joined every sport there was - volleyball, cross country, cheer, powerlifting, basketball, and what would truly define her stellar athletic career, track and field. After Cano competed in her first track and field meet, it took off from there.
“I fell in love with the sport during that time, and I took it more seriously probably right into high school,” said Cano. “I started to think this is something I would probably want to do in college.”
By the time Cano reached her junior year in high school, she already had many colleges recruiting her. She ended up in Alaska as her collegiate head coach, Ryan McWilliams, also from Alpine, had ties to high school sports through his father who coached in Presidio. Seeing Cano’s superb talent while in competition against the Lady Blue Devils, McWilliams pushed to have Cano bring her athletic prowess to the far northwest state, where she was offered a full scholarship.
While at Alpine High School, Cano had many memorable moments with teammates and coaches. In her junior year, she competed at the state track meet for 100- and 300-meter hurdles, and won her first state medal. She also competed at the Texas Relays for a few years, doing the 100-meter hurdles and running for the 4x4 relay team.
“I had some really good memories with my teammates, like going on trips!” exclaimed Cano. “They made it super fun, and everybody was super supportive of the things I wanted to do in college. Just having all that support really encouraged me to really go for it.”
Cano also credits former high school track coach Wayne Schroder as an influential mentor. “Coach Schroder was super encouraging and very supportive of the decisions I wanted to make for my future,” stated Cano. “He was always believing in me, and he always influenced me in a good way.”
Cano recently earned high marks at the University of Alaska, winning first place at a conference meet for the pentathlon, along with competing and doing well in track and field events for hurdles, long jump, high jump, and the 4x4 relay.
For Cano, there is no limit to what she can achieve. Combining her athletic prowess with academic excellence, she plans on attending law school in Texas next year, and becoming a criminal defense attorney. In the meantime, she continues to chase her dreams of running and competing, and enjoying it while she still can.
“If I can run now, and compete while I can, I will take the opportunity no matter what,“ she said. “That’s what my mindset has been. Sports has always been a part of my life. I love what I do.”