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Joaquin Suniga runs the track at Salt River High School during afterschool practice for cross-country.

Community Member Busy Fundraising to Run in Australia

Runner Joaquin Suniga is dreaming of taking his talents Down Under.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Salt River High School cross-country runner is hoping to raise $6,000 for a 10-day trip to the Gold Coast of Australia. He’ll represent the Community and Arizona at the 21st Annual Gold Coast Classic, part of the Down Under Sports Tournament (International Sports Specialists, Inc.). The trip is from June 26 to July 5.

Over the last 20 years, Down Under Sports has provided the opportunity for thousands of U.S. youth athletes to participate in sports tournaments from basketball and golf to cross country. The tournament selects a male or female athlete for each sport in each state.

Suniga has been involved in sports since he was in junior high, including football, baseball, wrestling, and track and field. Last fall, Suniga received the news that he was selected to be the Arizona male cross-country representative at the tournament.

“I never thought I was that good to be chosen to do something like this,” he said.

Suniga loves running. “I’ve run since I was very young,” he said. “I work out, eat right and train.” He has participated in the Community’s UNITY runs, which was instilled throughout his childhood through his family. Besides running, he plays basketball. When not breaking a sweat, he enjoys studying science-related materials like the human body and brain and likes to paint and draw.

He will compete in several cross-country competitions; when not training, he’ll get to explore Australia.

“I’m excited and I am happy to show the Community what you can be doing instead of drinking, doing drugs or joining gangs,” he said.

Joaquin Suniga and his family stand in front of their tent where they held a fund raising sale for his trip to the Land Down Under. Suniga and his family sold baked items including brownies, cupcakes and breads.
On January 25, Suniga, with the help of his family, woke up early to make banana bread and other baked goodies for a fundraiser at the Salt River Ball Field. Through the fund-raising event and a few donations, he and his family say they need to raise about $2,300 to cover the cost of the trip.

“It’s a pleasure to help out my grandson in something like this,” Suniga’s grandmother Marie Paul said. “I always believed that sports keep kids out of trouble. He makes good grades and has a good attitude. This is something very positive with a very good outcome.”

Suniga’s mother, Su:k Fulwilder, would like to thank everyone who came by or donated money to his fundraiser.

Suniga will be the first SRPMIC male to participate in the Down Under Sports Tournament. Past SRHS students selected include Taneasha Thomas, Briana Kewanwytewa, Samantha Hardy, Rebekka Briones, Ezekial Mendoza and Shea Enos.