People of UT Ep 02: Valery Tobias

In the second episode of People of UT, senior audio producer Maria Probert Hermosillo chats with track star Valery Tobias about her journey to UT and future plans. Valery, originally from Mexico, found her way to UT and has since broken many records. Keep an eye out for a special “en Español” episode featuring Valery.

This episode was hosted, reported and edited by Maria Probert Hermosillo. Photo by Andrew Zamora and cover design by Ciara Casarez. Music by BlueDot Sessions. The full transcript can be found below:


*Intro with background music*

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Welcome to People of UT, the show that introduces you to members of the UT community that have made a positive impact (big or small) on other community members. 

*Background music*

*Sounds from Valery’s competitions* 

Maria Probert Hermosillo: With immense power and strength, Valery Tobias is literally breaking records as a track and field athlete at UT. 

Valery Tobias: I was born in McAllen, Texas. But I grew up in Mexico, I grew up in Reynosa Tamaulipas, that’s where my parents are from. And I spent the first half of my life there. I basically grew up there and then moved to the United States when I was around 11. So I spent my middle school and high school years here. 

*Spike shoes*

Valery Tobias: When I first, I guess, felt interested in the sport was basically when I came to the United States. I didn’t have sports or anything back home because it was a very small Catholic school. So when I came here, I saw that there was such thing as a PE class and stuff. And that’s when my coaches saw me running. And they told me that I had a chance to run collegiately. And that could be my future if I wanted to. So then I started to do my research, I guess, and I started to little by little fall more in love with the sport. It took a lot of support from my parents, and my coaches, my teammates and my friends in school. But it wasn’t until I realized that I could do it and that I realized I had it in me that I knew I had this chance or like this chance became more clear. So then when I heard from the coaches from UT, I realized this dream was more and more real. was becoming like more and more of a possibility. So when I heard from the UT coach, I was super excited. And I immediately took the visit here and I fell in love with the with the resources with the campus with the track everything, like everything they provide for their students, as student athletes is insane. And there was no doubt that I knew like I belong here, or I wanted to come here, for sure. 

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Valery is a super senior, who focused her studies on Health and Society, and is currently taking a communications certificate. 

Valery Tobias: I wanted to pursue some sort of, I guess, medicine track career field. I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. And I obviously still have my dream to become a PA physician assistant. So I think that doing Health and Society helped me a lot with that. 

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Valery has found immense support from her peers, but the person she looks up to the most throughout her career is her coach PattiSue Plumer. 

Valery Tobias: I really do think that she has helped me not only like, on the field, like, as an athlete or student, just as a person. I feel that whenever I was overwhelmed with both being a student and an athlete, I kind of broke down and you could see it in practices. And I think that her being able to tell that and kind of recognize that you’re a person first, you know, you’re not just an athlete, or you’re not just like a student, you’re not only supposed to like, yep, results matter, but also like your well-being also matters and your mental health matters. I think that she helped me emphasize that a lot. And she helped me navigate through my freshman year, first of all, and I cannot thank her enough, she knows me well, she knows me. Like, she knows me so well that, I think, our relationship as a coach and athlete has just gotten better each year. And she has taught me a lot, just you know, how to manage everything and, you know, of my goals is to be, my goal is to be a professional athlete like what I have to do and you know, what, what expectations are going to be and what to expect from other people and from yourself and just how to collect yourself whenever you’re about to race or you’re about to take an exam whatever. 

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Throughout her UT track and field career, Valery has broken international records including the Mexican National record of the 800 meters, as well as a historic UT record for the 1000m race set by Tara Arnold in 1985. Here is her talking about that experience: 

Valery Tobias: I remember, it was a funny thing, because when we ran, this was at the Valentine Invitational in Boston. And I feel like, it was a very surprising thing, because we weren’t going there with the goal to break that record, I think we were going more towards like, you know, getting, bettering our time and the 800. And unfortunately, like, it didn’t, I remember running the 800. And it had not gone well, or the best or how I wanted it to go. And I was a little bit upset. I was just like, a little let down. And,  just discouraged. And I remember my coach was like, well, like, you can either run the 1000 or the mile, and they were about, like, two to three hours apart. And that was fine. And I was like, you know what, like, I want to try to run the mile, something different, like, I’ve been running the eight and mile double for a while. So I kinda want to switch it up. And she’s like, okay, like, but you’re gonna have to run this hard. And she always likes to remind me, like, just know, like, the record in the school is 2:42. And I was like, oh, like, okay, and I like to do the math in my head, because I’m like, “Okay, what does this mean?” Like what I have to go through, and she is really good at giving us a game plan. So then I remember running it, and it was with a fast hit. And it was with pros. So I was like, oh my gosh, I was so nervous, because I was running against, like, professional athletes, and they’re amazing. They helped me get the record. So I was like, super excited to have been able to race with them. And also just get the record that I didn’t know what standing for that long. 

*Crowd cheering*

Valery Tobias: When I finished and across the finish line, I was like, 2:40! I looked at her and we just like jump up and down. And like, she came and hugged me. And it was a really nice experience. Because it was something that came out of, I guess after, I guess, like a disappointment. I feel like I was able to gather myself and you know, just, like, erase the previous race and kind of start over. And I think that showed a lot of growth, because I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to do that in the past. Past Val would would have like crumbled or something. But I was so excited. I was super excited. And you know, just seeing yourself in the record books here at UT is like, such a honor. It’s just, it’s crazy. I feel like I would have if I told myself this when I was a freshman I would have been like, “Oh yeah, sure, right.” Like I would not have believed myself. But I am very excited. I’m just, it makes me hungry to kind of like keep going and just keep running fast. You know, keep just keep running fast for this last few years. Last few months I have left. So I think that’s a big part of my motivation.

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Val is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, and she tries to represent both of her identities in everything she does, especially with the time she has left at UT.

Valery Tobias: So definitely my upcoming goals, um, for the remainder of my time at UT is definitely you know, just competing nationals indoor and outdoor, we’re hosting nationals outdoor this year. So it will be like a dream to, you know, win when you’re home and that’s, that’s my, I guess, most recent goal, but after college, I do want to keep running professionally. I still have to, obviously, better my times, keep running, keep having the discipline that my coaches and UT has taught me. And I think that after that just, you know, keep running professional until I can’t anymore. This is something I love doing and I don’t want it to end so, so soon. But I also, I guess my biggest goal in my head right now could definitely be running for the Olympics. I would love to represent Mexico or you know, just whoever, like, gives me the opportunity of course, like I want to just be the best athlete for their country. And I just like, I don’t know, I feel like it sounds scary saying it out loud. Because it makes it real, like puts it out there. But I do want to focus on the Olympics in 2024.

Maria Probert Hermosillo: Valery’s learned to trust the process to follow her big goals. Her advice for reaching them is simply to keep going.  

Valery Tobias: I think that it would definitely be don’t serve yourself short. I think like giving yourself a chance. You never know, like, what’s going to happen, who’s going to give you the opportunity, whether that be a job or, you know, opportunity in athletics. Just like you never know who’s gonna give you that chance. Like, there’s always a person that believes in you. And I think that as long as you believe in yourself, like there’s like nothing you can’t achieve. And it’s just I feel like people should really just have that discipline to stick with it. I think if you stick with it long enough, like you can achieve anything you want. Just don’t count yourself out. You never know what’s gonna happen.

*Pistol of a starting race* 

Maria Probert Hermosillo: This has been a production of the Daily Texan Audio Department. Reported and edited by me, Maria Probert Hermosillo. 

Special thanks to Valery Tobias for participating in this story.

Thank you for listening.