Northwestern Mutual Athlete of the Month: Gretel Caballero

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Gretel Caballero one day envisions running track for Team USA in the Olympics. With an epic dream such as this; along comes the pathway to making that dream a reality. It’s safe to say that her trajectory thus far is in the right direction. Her athletic dexterity, academic achievement, commitment to teammates, and esteemed character all culminate into her being the Northwestern Mutual Athlete of the Month for April.

When asked what this recognition means to her, she said, “It’s a real honor, because a lot of people don’t get honored here in this state for a lot of things; especially athletes, knowing that we are not in a big state, we don’t get honored for a lot. So it’s a big thing for me.”
Caballero is a junior and co-captain for Central High School’s track team. Central is one of the premier schools in class 3-A. After a trip to state last season, it became noticeable that Caballero was a key element in the team’s success.

She competes in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 400 meter trials individually. In team meets, she competes in the 4 X 4 relays. Her personal records in each trial are 12.1 seconds in the 100 meter, 25.7 seconds in the 200 meter, and 55 seconds in the 400 meter. If you’re not a track guru, no worries; just know Caballero can run four football fields in less than one minute minus the end zones. Fast would be an understatement. Try this; if you blink you just may miss her.

Her athletic prowess helped Central last year post a 3:57 time in the 4×4 relay which was a record. Recently, she won the 400m at a meet held at the University of Kentucky.

Dedication spurs Caballero to excel as an athlete. She has impacted her teammates throughout the years. As co-captain she exemplifies leadership by being at every practice, encouraging teammates, and being their cheerleader.

“Well, my coming to practice everyday is one thing. When you have a team like ours, you have to be there for them, because we have people who get injured and hurt. Even if they are tired, [I try] to get them up, and encourage them to run more. I cheer them on. That is a big thing, because that has helped me.”

As an upperclassman, she also believes in including underclassmen to strengthen the team’s unity.

“Even hanging outside of school with your teammates is a big thing. They will feel included, even younger kids like freshman and sophomores should feel included on a team as well, because if you don’t, then they will feel like, ‘why should I run’”.

Northwestern Mutual also recognizes students with academic achievement. Caballero speaks English and Spanish fluently, and takes serious her education. She takes advanced placement classes and has a 3.8 cumulative grade point average. She is meeting the expectations that come from her family.

“My mom is a very strict person, so I try to stay on top of my grades. Not missing school and staying on top of everything; it’s a big thing for my family. They expect me to do something with my life and actually make something of myself.”

Caballero’s significant source of inspiration is her mother. Her family moved to Louisville from Cuba after she turned one years of age. The strength her mother has gained as a single parent has inspired her as an athlete. After her mother made it through an appendix surgery last winter, that month of caring for her mother and keeping things balanced in her life was a struggle but built her endurance.

“It was really hard for me being there for her, while trying to prioritize everything else I had for school. But we got through it, and she is better now.”

Caballero says that after reflecting upon being much younger than her mom, from here on out she wants to ensure that, “The years that she is still here for me I want to let it be memorable for her.”

Track has taught Caballero many things. Aside from running in meets, track is a way for her to run free in life.

“People make mistakes, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes throughout my years, but I learned to change and adapt to things and move on from other things. So track is a way that I can get away and just run. It is a place that I can go away. I can go away and just be myself and not have to change anything. So track is a big thing for me.”

Caballero plans to go to college and study pre-med. She aspires to be a trainer for any professional sport. Schools interested in her are Northern Kentucky, Louisville, Miami University, Ohio St., and Vanderbilt. She plans to run collegiately and professionally. As her race in life continues, she will live by her own personal motto, “Run fast and fearless.” VT