Amy Quinones’ college running career is not over yet. The former San Benito High standout has one more season of athletic eligibility left, and she plans on using it for the 2020 track and field season. The recent Sacramento State graduate will re-apply for a nursing graduate program next year and in the meantime take a couple of classes to fortify her resume and academic transcript while training for another track season. The thrill of earning her undergraduate degree in four years—”It went by so fast,” she said—made Quinones’ walk across the stage to grab her diploma that much more special.
“It was surreal,” she said. “I was in disbelief in how I was already at this point, and it was a really cool experience because I had four of my track teammates right in line with me and we got the front row of the ceremony. To have a lot of family support there, my jaw kind of dropped as I crossed the stage because I could not believe I was already graduating.”
Quinones has one more season of athletic eligibility remaining because she took a redshirt season during her freshman indoor track season and also got injured during the outdoor track season of her sophomore year. Quinones is coming off a tremendous season in cross country and track, establishing numerous personal-records (PRs) in both sports. During the cross country season, Quinones was the top Sacramento State finisher in all six races, something she also accomplished in her sophomore and junior seasons.
Her lone race victory—it’s ultra difficult to win at the Division I running level—came at the Fresno State Invitational when she covered the hilly 5k (3.1 miles) course in 18 minutes, 2 seconds. Quinones has a PR of 17:32 in the 5k and 20:26.1 in the 6k.
“Going into Fresno I was able to put it all together,” she said. “With the years of experience I gained, maturing and the added confidence I had in myself, I was ready to run a great race because I also had a solid summer training period. My endurance and base was definitely strong. Winning that race was a really cool experience.”
Quinones was running with her teammates until the final mile, when the Sacramento State coaches told her to go for it. At the time, Quinones was in third or fourth place, but it didn’t take long for her to unleash a superior kick down the long straightaway to the finish line. With around 150 meters left, Quinones took the lead and crossed the finish line first for a spectacular race win.
“It was definitely a nice moment because we won the team title and individual title,” she said. “That really set the stage for the rest of the season.”
On the track in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, Quinones was no less impressive. She nailed PRs in all of her events, going 2:08.54 in the 800, 4:23.99 in the 1500 and 17:20.24 in the 5000. Among those marks, Quinones felt most proud of her 1500 time because it continued to show progress after she went 4:51.87 during the indoor season at the University of Washington Invitational on Jan. 26, the first time she had gone sub 5 minutes in the metric mile.
“I felt like that started my breakthrough because I had been trying the majority of my career to get under the 5 minute mark,” she said. “All the work I’ve done in the past four years, it was like, ‘Alright, this was in the making and I knew I could do it and it finally came.’ It was really cool because after the race my teammates and coaches congratulated me because they knew it had been a big goal of mine for a long time.”
Quinones also finished in second place in the 1500 during the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships, putting her on the podium.
“It was really cool to reach each of the goals I had set out at the beginning of the year,” she said.
Quinones had some strong performances despite not being able to actually run for an entire month leading up regionals and the conference championships. She started developing lower back pain and had to cross train and use the ElliptiGo, a machine that combines the motion of an indoor elliptical trainer with the outdoor mobility of a traditional bicycle. Fortunately for Quinones, she had developed a big base by running 60-plus miles a week for months, so she just needed to maintain her fitness and save her legs for the actual races.
When Quinones toed the starting line for the NCAA Division I West Region Track and Field Championships on May 23, she had already received the news that she hadn’t gotten into her graduate school of choice, leaving open the possibility of her returning for one more season of competition. She’s already accomplished so much, and yet she’ll have one more season to leave a lasting mark in what has been a terrific college career.