Mateo Trejo Monroy breaks the two-minute barrier in the 800m at the 2024 Knights of Columbus Games. Photo by Louis Christ.

Mateo Trejo Monroy is rewriting Guatemalan age group records from Saskatoon

Mateo Trejo Monroy was as surprised as anyone when he fell in love with running two years ago. Now he wants to inspire others in his home country of Guatemala to run — and run fast.

“I want to leave a mark so anyone in Guatemala can know they can do it because people think that Oh, because I’m from here I won’t do good,” says 17-year-old Trejo Monroy, a Gr. 11 student at Aden Bowman Collegiate. “Guatemala isn’t really heard of that much (in athletics) and I just want to give hope.”

Trejo Monroy and his family moved to Saskatoon from Guatemala in October 2021 to follow Trejo Monroy’s mother, who was getting her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. Growing up, Trejo Monroy had tried several different sports at the urging of his mother, but never found an activity he enjoyed. So when his mom signed him up for Saskatoon Track and Field Club, Trejo Monroy wasn’t very enthusiastic. He surprised himself and his family when he went to practice and had fun.

“It was just a feeling of freedom that I had with track that actually made me feel I want to go back, I want to go to practice again,” recalls Trejo Monroy. “So I really thank my mom for that.”

Trejo Monroy began focusing on middle distance events and surprised everyone again at the 2022 City Championships when he finished second in the intermediate boys 800m event in a time of two minutes 18.67 seconds, qualifying for the provincial championships.

Mateo Trejo Monroy en route to break the two-minute barrier in the 800m at the 2024 Knights of Columbus Games. Photo by Louis Christ.
Mateo Trejo Monroy en route to break the two-minute barrier in the 800m at the 2024 Knights of Columbus Games. Photo by Louis Christ.

The win ignited a fire in Trejo Monroy. “It kick-started my passion for the sport, for me to start chasing goals, to think: I can be better, I can start improving,” he says.

Trejo Monroy’s times have dropped considerably since that 2022 race, for which he gives a lot of credit to his coach, Janet Christ, and his STFC teammates. “Having a team is a really important aspect of improving oneself,” he says. “It’s really hard on the mind to do training alone. And the thing about training with the team is they push you to be better yourself and you also push them to be better.” It was also a big confidence boost to see teammate Michael Hussey selected to represent Canada at last year’s Commonwealth Youth Games. “It’s a boost knowing I can do that, I trained with that guy, we do the exact same thing, so I could also do that,” he says.

Trejo Monroy came close to breaking the two-minute barrier in the 800m last summer and entered his indoor season believing a sub-two run was not a matter of if, but when.

When, it turns out, was Jan. 27 at the Knights of Columbus Games in Saskatoon. Though Trejo Monroy was the youngest runner in the open race and competing against university athletes, he was confident he would win. “As my dad likes to say: If I put in the work, it’s going to come. I put in the work — and it happened.”

Trejo Monroy won in 1:55.95 seconds, surpassing the Saskatchewan U18 record of 1:56.05 set by Michael Hussey last spring and coming within a hair of the Guatemalan U18 record of 1:55.56 seconds.

Being able to break the Guatemalan age group records in the middle distances would mean a lot to Trejo Monroy, who is seeking permanent residency in Canada with the hopes of holding dual Canadian and Guatemalan citizenship. He says Guatemala doesn’t have much representation on the global stage in athletics, with U.S.-based runner Luis Grijalva one of the few Guatemalans running at an international level.

“I see those records and I’m like: I was brought with this opportunity to come here and perform at this level — I can break those. I’ll use the opportunity that I have to break these records to make something of myself. And that is the same mentality I have as well with studies,” he says.

A week after the K of C Games, Trejo Monroy was in Edmonton for the Alberta Indoor Games where he won the U18 600m in a time of 1:23.31, besting the Guatemalan age group record of 1:24.

Getting his name in the record books in such a short time is an impressive feat, but Trejo Monroy is not letting up the gas. There’s a whole book of Guatemalan age group records — and he’s going to work to grab as many as he can.