Eli Mercado was in the eighth grade at Hamburg Middle School when he forgot something on the bus as he was arriving at school. He ran back to retrieve his forgotten item and was noticed by one of the track coachs. He suggested that Mercado try out for the track team. Eli took the suggestion and has been running ever since.
He remembers his first winter track practice. He has had no track experience, as football was his only sport. The track practices were nothing like his football practices.
“My muscles hurt after the first hour,” said Mercado. “I thought about quitting. I didn’t think track would get me anywhere because I mainly wanted to play football. After a while, I decided to stick with it.”
That decision turned out to be a good one. He was an average football player, but he excelled in track. He soon realized that he best chance for a college scholarship was through track.
He learned a lot through his track experience, but he feels he learned mostly about teamwork. He learned to work with his teammates to figure out ways to win. It also helped him to be in better shape for football, although eventually, he gave up football.
In some ways, Eli does miss playing football. Going to the games was tough for him.
“I would go to games and wish that I could be on the field, having people cheering my name and the crowd cheering for me,” said Mercado. “In track you don’t have too much of a crowd, and there isn’t too much cheering. I miss that part of football.”
When his family moved to Boyertown, he had planned to continue to play football. However, it was his parents who wanted him to take a break from football and get himself situated in a new school. He missed the sign-up by a week for his junior year. By his senior year, he decided to run cross country since he wanted to pursue track for college anyway.
It was his sophomore year when he and his family moved to the Boyertown Area School District. He was in cyber school for his sophomore year, and came to Boyertown High School his junior and senior years. Of course, coming to a new school is never easy for a student, especially when you don’t know anyone there.
“It was definitely a different feel,” said Mercado. “At Hamburg, I basically knew everybody that was in my grade. To come here and not know anyone, I really didn’t pick up on the peer aspect of becoming friends with people because it’s such a huge school. I basically spoke to kids on the track team, and some kids in my class. Yeah, it was definitely a different feel. It was really hard.”
He will admit that he didn’t like it at Boyertown at first, but with time, he got use to it. He adapted to the different feel and he accepted what had happen and move on with his future plans.
Now, Mercado is a senior at Boyertown High School and competed in the 800 meter run for the indoor track season at Penn State University last weekend. Mercado made the Meet of Champions last year, but this year was his first time at an indoor state track meet.
He did well, taking home an eight place medal, recording a time of 1:57.11 in the 800.
As as freshman, Mercado dreamed of making states one day for indoor track, now he not only got there, but he medaled.
“It feels pretty great (making states),” said Mercado. “I remember the meet I actually qualified. It was a huge relief. I really didn’t have to worry about it throughout the rest of the year like I did for the 400. It was basically training for states from that point on.”
Now, Eli is seeing the hard work that he’s put in over the past year pay off with a state medal. Still, he stops at times and wonders why he’s competing in winter track. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful in the sport.
“Definitely the hard work has paid off,” said Mercado. “I’m actually glad that I stuck with it. It’s the hard work that gets you places. I’m glad that I kept going.” Eli is still waiting to see where he’s going to go to college next fall. He’s hoping to get into the University of Pittsburgh, however he’s still waiting for his acceptance letter. He wants to major in either civil engineering or secondary education mathematics.
Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times. You can also follow him on twitter @writersprtsBT