Hard work pays off: Gomez-Diaz sets school record as freshman

Lydia Gomez-Diaz finished her freshman year at Eastern Michigan University, despite having had a hard time adjusting to changes in her life after moving to the U.S. from Spain 10 months ago, but Gomez-Diaz found a home on the EMU women’s track and field team.

“In the beginning, I wanted to go back,” she said. “It was different; practice was harder. I didn’t feel comfy. But then, we [the team] started to work harder. I started knowing the girls on the team, kept working hard. Then I started feeling better.”

But the hard work she put in during the season paid off. At the 2012 Outdoor Mid-American Conference Championships, Gomez-Diaz had a hammer throw of 190 feet 10 inches, which is not only a personal best, but also earned her a spot in the EMU record books.

“I feel great about it,” she said. “I started at 170 feet when I first got here. I improved to 15 feet since then. I broke the school record, which was great. I feel really good about that.”

The record-setting throw also placed her on the 2012 Women’s Track and Field All-MAC Second Team.

Gomez-Diaz ended her first season at the 2012 NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla. taking 41st place with a hammer throw of 169 feet 5 inches.

Although she might have the technique for the hammer throw event, Gomez-Diaz admits she had a hard time learning how to compete in the weight throw event, which she didn’t participate in while in Spain.

“It was really bad,” she said. “We don’t have the weight throw in Europe. I never saw this event.”

Gomez-Diaz confessed that she enjoys the hammer throw more.

In the off-season, Gomez-Diaz plans on improving her technique, personal record, strength and weight throwing.

“I’d like to throw a little bit further,” she said. “Obviously, I’d like to go to the European Athletics U23 Championships in 2013. I have a chance to compete in it. If I keep improving my personal record, I will be fine.”

One of the reasons Gomez-Diaz came to the U.S. was the incentive of having her education paid for by competing at the collegiate level.

“I got a scholarship from the track team,” she said. “I knew of other students that came to the states for school. Eastern Michigan interested me. They gave me a full scholarship, so I did it. I came here.”

Gomez-Diaz said she lived a “normal life” in her hometown of Tarragona, Spain, which is about an hour and a half southwest of Barcelona.

“I would go to school, practice and go to the beach everyday in the summer time,” she said.

L’Arrabassada Beach and Playa Miragla are a couple of the beaches Gomez-Diaz might visit during her trip back home in a couple of weeks.

She says life in the U.S. is similar to her life in Spain, but has subtle differences. For example, during the winter here, she went to class and practice, but then stayed indoors.

In Spain, the weather is much warmer throughout the year and people go out much more during the day.

“The weather is different,” she said. “The holidays are kind of the same, but some traditions here are different.”

Gomez-Diaz says that EMU’s new Spanish track and field athlete, Marina Manjohn Rivadulla from Escola Universitària del Maresme Mataró, used to be a teammate when they were part of Agrupación Atlética de Cataluña. She has known Rivadulla for about five years.

“I am going to live with her next year,” she said. “She will see the different cultures, and I would like to be by her side when she does.”

Gomez-Diaz says she looks to help out Rivadulla ease into her first freshman season next year. Rivadulla is a sprinter and distance runner; she has set personal bests in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter runs.

Look for the Spanish girls to be refreshed, sun-tanned and determined to break personal records at the start of the next year’s track and field indoor and outdoor seasons.

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