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Runner stories

ACE deals a winning hand to young runners

Andrea Guerra speaking in front of outdoor crowd
Angel City Elite logo
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Angel City Elite, Brooks’ team of BIPOC runners, is working to build better communities and inspire youth by championing representation in the sport.

A year of firsts

In 2020, Sabrina De La Cruz left the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with a PR and determination to address the lack of diversity she witnessed at a top running competition. This experience became the catalyst for the formation of Angel City Elite, an all Latinx team of runners whose guiding principle is to show BIPOC representation in running while ensuring youth see that representation at a young age.

Fast forward to 2021: the women of ACE had quite a year. After the team’s founding in March, members experienced everything from childbirth to weddings, new jobs, and a first-time marathon finish. These remarkable women juggled all the best life had to offer during a global pandemic and through it all they managed to create lasting change for young runners.

Finding their ways

Before the team launched, members weren’t quite sure how they would be received. Lockdowns were still happening, and there were concerns about whether they could even be out in the community. They were surprised at how much they were able to connect right out of the gate.

“The first month, it was overwhelming. Opportunities were plenty and we were finding a way to manage it all. We were doing podcasts, interviews, and plenty of speaking engagements talking about our plans. It was a big learning process,” said Grace Zamudio.

But the team got to really dig into their mission in September, which was the first chance they had to connect with youth in schools.

Angel City Elite outdoor group photo

September 2021 | From left: Grace “Gigi” Gonzales, Grace Zamudio, Andrea Guerra, and Sabrina De La Cruz with youth runners at a workshop in Los Angeles.

“For us as adults, it was nice to be around other people, but the kids were feeling the same way. We were all experiencing the same thing — pursuing our goals and living our lives during this pandemic,” added Grace Gonzales, who goes by Gigi.

In January 2022, Gigi competed in the Chevron Houston Marathon. ACE teammates joined her in Texas to help lead an event at the We Are Houston 5k for about 175 young runners. For most of the kids, it was the first time running at that distance, but Grace was enthusiastic about how much the kids rocked it. “Doing that 5K reminded me of how much I love running, especially with a team. At the event, I ran with these two boys. One was much faster than the other, but he hung back to make sure his friend would cross the line at the same time.”

Front view of Grace Gonzales running a marathon

January 2022 | Grace “Gigi” Gonzales runs the Chevron Houston Marathon, her first.

Andrea Guerra and Grace Zamudio run the We Are Houston 5K with youth athletes.
Close up view of medal for We Are Houston 5K run

Andrea Guerra and Grace Zamudio run the We Are Houston 5K with youth athletes.

As often is the case for ACE, the run was just half the work. After the finish, team members lead a goal setting workshop for the kids, and the result was pure positive energy. “This event was a reminder of how fun and rewarding this work can be,” Grace said.

We’ve made time for this work regardless of each of us facing our own new life transitions all while continuing to train, and it has helped knowing there is a team through it all.”

Grace “Gigi” Gonzales ACE runner

From inspired to inspiration

The women of ACE are now running in the footsteps of their idols. For Sabrina, it was Kara Goucher’s strong voice and physicality that she admired. Brenda Martinez’s Mexican American representation resonated with Gigi in many ways. And Grace grew up in the same hometown as Lauren Fleshman, Alysia Montaño, and Allyson Felix, and she appreciates how they have used their platforms to inspire change within the sport.

Now, empowerment is ACE’s responsibility.

“We really want to educate and inspire the younger generation because we’re hoping that at the next Olympic Marathon Trials, which are being held in 2024, there’ll be more BIPOC people competing. We want to run with different groups and use social media to amplify other people’s voices. We have a lot of work to do, but it’s time — we need to create change or else there won’t be any,” Sabrina told Bustle in April 2021.

For Gigi, embodying empowerment means sharing oneself.

“Our experiences, the challenges we’ve faced, the lessons we’ve learned, and sharing the knowledge to where it has gotten us makes a difference. The most empowering part for me is this is something we care about. We’ve made time for this work regardless of each of us facing our own new life transitions all while continuing to train, and it has helped knowing there is a team through it all.”

Learn more

The Angel City Elite team includes Sabrina De La Cruz, Grace “Gigi” Gonzales, Grace Zamudio, and Andrea Guerra. Check out the ACE team website to learn more about their work towards BIPOC representation and youth empowerment and keep up with the latest ACE news on Instagram. Read more about Brooks partnerships and how we’re engaging the run community on the Our People page.