It’s said that looks can be deceiving. In the case of Spring Lake's Carlyn Arteaga, it's her last name that often fools people.
Although Arteaga is a last name commonly tied to the Hispanic ethnicity, the only association it has to the Spring Lake High School sophomore’s family comes from a unique twist in her family tree.
The 5-foot-6 Arteaga explained the confusion surrounding her surname following a practice session earlier this week.
“My last name Arteaga actually comes from my grandpa’s stepdad,” she said.
Arteaga’s great-grandmother remarried following her husband’s death to a man named Olaf Aas. Aas spent several years living and working in Spain and during that time, he decided to change his name to Carlos Arteaga (pronounced Ar-tay-ga). The last name remained in the family, and currently with father Keith, mother Jean, Carlyn and younger brother Ben.
Arteaga is quickly becoming a household name at Spring Lake after Carlyn's tremendous season of competing on the Lakers’ cross country and track teams. She’s qualified in four events for Saturday’s Division 2 finals at Forest Hills Eastern High School, but will likely only compete in three — the 800-meter run, and the 3,200- and 1,600-meter relays. Arguably her best event, the 400 dash, falls too close to the 800 and could also tire her out for relays, meaning it will be dropped from her program.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t believe there’s ever been an female track athlete here that’s qualified in four events for state,” said Spring Lake coach Gera Peel. “Anything that Carlyn puts her mind to, she can accomplish. She’s blessed. And I feel blessed because she’s just a sophomore. I get to coach her two more years.”
Arteaga will have two more years to fill up more of the Spring Lake record books, and she’s already off to a remarkable start.
Just this year, she turned in the cross country program’s best-ever 5K time, when she ran to a time of 18 minutes, 27.7 seconds at the Division 2 state finals. Her 15th place finish propelled the Lakers to a stunning runner-up placing — the program’s best result since its state championship back in 2000.
Her track season has been even more rewarding, as she broke the 400-meter dash record that she originally set as a freshman a year ago, and helped the 3,200 relay reach a record time. The 1,600 relay squad is also less than a second away from entering the record books, a goal that Arteaga says should fall on Saturday.
All of this has been achieved by a self-professed specialist in sprints, who admittedly was thinking about breaking school records before she even entered high school.
“My eighth grade year of track, I started running the 400,” she said. “Since my first time running that, I had my eye on the school record.
“I always played soccer before,” she added. “I was a midfielder, but I always wondered if I could do longer distances. Once I started the 400, I really liked it, so I stuck with it.”
Peel credits Arteaga's success to her dedicated work ethic and training regimine. Orchestrated by head cross country and assistant track coach Aaron Andres, Lakers runners attempt to tally a "gold standard" of running during the months of June and July, which is 250 miles. This past summer, Arteaga totaled an impressive 275.
"You hate it and you love it," Arteaga said of training. "What gets me through is thinking about why you're doing it. I think about what happens during a race, or a race you've already done, like one you lost. Or I'll picture how you want it to be.
"We get a free T-shirt if we get to 250, and you really can't beat that," she added with a grin.
Arteaga also believes she has excelled thanks to the constant encouragement in practices from the Lakers' upperclassmen, notably senior Brittany Beeler.
"She's been so helpful, especially in cross country," Arteaga said. "I wouldn't be half the runner I am without her. Everything from training, to handling nerves, to how to run the actual race. She's an outstanding role model."
Beeler is another strong piece on a stacked Lakers' squad, one that will field a total of 10 athletes in nine different events at the state finals. Beeler is on the 3,200 relay along with Arteaga, Erin O'Keefe and Ashley Warner. Arteaga is joined by Katie Wells, Emma Mitchell and Sydney Chaney on the 1,600 relay, while Beeler and O'Keefe will run individually in the 3,200.
Junior Allie LeRoux is seeded second in the pole vault with a season-best effort of 11-2, while Grace Peterson and Lydia Suchecki each could make noise in the high jump.
But arguably the Laker with the best chance to capture state championship glory is Arteaga in the 800, where she's seeded first with her school record time of 2:17.10.
Arteaga confidently believes that she'll run to glory on Saturday, despite the fact that she's only competed in the 800 about three times this season.
"It's really crazy to think about, but numbers are numbers," she said. "I guess that's kind of why I don't have any particular moment that makes me happier than another. It's like, 'OK, I've got to go out and do this,' and then it's 'OK, I did it, what's next?'
What's next is uncertain, but the future is bright. Arteaga is a name to remember in running circles in the coming years, and definitely not one to change.