GONZALES — Gonzales High School alumnus and Hartnell College student Pablo Villasenor was joined by coaches and family at Hartnell as he signed his National Letter of Intent to participate in track and field next season at San Jose State University.
San Jose State is a Division I college and a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The South Monterey County resident is the 20-year-old son of Karla and Pablo Villasenor Sr.
Villasenor, a track and field, basketball and football student-athlete at Gonzales High, participated in only three track meets for the Hartnell Panther track team, but his drive and determination impressed many colleges. The 6-foot-5 thrower chose San Jose because it is close to home and has all he wants in a college.
“I’m excited and just looking forward to competing,” Villasenor said. “It’s been a while, but that’s why I stay ready so I don’t have to get ready. I think San Jose is going to be a good experience and I can’t wait.”
Villasenor had a very successful athletic career at Gonzales, as he was an All-League athlete in track and field, football and basketball.
In his senior year, Villasenor was a two-way starter and All-League player on the Santa Lucia Division champion football team. As a track athlete, Villasenor was league champion in both the shot put and discus for two straight years and was an All-Central Coast medal winner in the shot put.
Villasenor’s track accomplishments caught the eye of Hartnell throwing coach Frank Martinez, who saw his statistics and attended meets to watch him throw.
“He was my highest recruit his senior year,” Martinez said. “I don’t just recruit talent, I like to recruit good-minded people. I saw the heart of a lion inside a big body and I saw mental strength. He made our top 10 at Hartnell in the hammer and he was making big jumps in the shot put and discus, and I believe he eventually would have placed in the top 10 in those events as well. That kid will eventually make a huge impact where ever he lands in life, not doubt.”
Panther head coach Chris Zepeda praised Villasenor for not letting Covid-19 keep him from becoming a better thrower by working out on his own when facilities were shut down.
“Like other successful athletes, the pandemic didn’t shut Pablo down as he adapted,” Zepeda said. “Instead of lifting weights at school, he did it in the garage or where he could find access. If he could not throw in our ring, he found parks or fields and even threw in his yard. He did all this and documented it, making it very easy for coaches to see his drive. Resilience and passion are key traits of successful people. Pablo did a good job of making it obvious he possessed both.”
Gonzales head track and field coach Margie Daniels recruited Villasenor in the spring of his freshman year after getting to know him in her physical education classes. Daniels saw the growth in Villasenor in his four years as a thrower.
“It seems like yesterday when I had met Pablo as a freshman and introduced him to a sport he had no idea of,” Daniels recalled. “A program in its rebuilding phase with little to no resources where Pablo would become an integral part of the revival. Yet, it was only the beginning of Pablo’s journey that eventually led him to this very moment of officially becoming an NCAA Division I athlete. For me, I knew this day would come.”
Daniels said Pablo celebrated many accomplishments but also faced just as many challenges along the way.
“He has always been in an environment that gave him unconditional love, hard work, accountability, persistence and an abundance of support that he became a product of. Pablo never gave into defeat, instead used it as a learning tool to get better and better,” she said. “I always admired this about him, but even more the humility he often displayed. I feel honored that myself and Coach Ramirez were there throughout the years to watch Pablo grow into the man he is today. We did the best we could with what little we had to give Pablo every opportunity to thrive.”
Daniels added, “Thank you to the entire Villasenor family for allowing us to coach him, putting up with those long track meets and events, never criticizing or questioning us, supporting Pablo unconditionally while supporting us too. You are the most important reason he is successful. I am grateful for the Hartnell track coaches that provided Pablo the resources and tools necessary to reach the next level. Coach Z and Coach Frankie have always included us with Pablo at Hartnell, which meant a lot … thank you.”
Because of the pandemic, Villasenor will be able to compete in the San Jose State sports programs for four years as the time that he has spent at Hartnell will not count in his years of eligibility.
Villasenor might have a chance to throw in a few meets this track and field season for the Panthers. He will graduate with his associate’s degree in May.
“I will still be practicing at Hartnell until and if we’re allowed to compete,” Villasenor said. “Then after that, I’ll start practicing in the summer at San Jose State and start school in the fall. Coach Youngern is a good throwing coach and I am ready to continue to learn from her. She took me on a virtual tour of the campus and it is nice. We will be competing in the Mountain West Conference.”