By Saima Asad, May 3 2017 —
University of Calgary student and Dinos sprinter Mariano Ezeta died at age 23 this weekend after a roughly two-year battle with cancer.
The Gauntlet interviewed Ezeta in 2015, before his diagnosis. He spoke about the pressures of balancing athletics and academics.
“It does get a little bit strenuous sometimes, with big championship meets and going away for a long time. But it’s definitely better to be a Dinos athlete than an individual track and field athlete without support,” Ezeta said.
Ezeta was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after the 2014–15 Dinos season.
Ezeta’s close friend and teammate Isabella Hernandez said Ezeta remained positive throughout his battle.
“I was training with him and he started feeling a little bit sick and he went in for a blood test,” she said. “He let us know that he was diagnosed with leukemia and that it was going to be fine.”
Hernandez said Ezeta’s strength inspired herself and her teammates.
“One thing that he taught me — and I think a lot of my teammates would say the same — is to always get back up, no matter what,” she said. “[His cancer] was the battle of his life. It was such a struggle for him and he was so strong about it.”
Ezeta played soccer in Mexico before he became a sprinter for the Dinos, competing in the 2012–13 and 2014–15 seasons. 2015 was a particularly successful year for Ezeta, as he won a Canada West Men’s Track and Field Championship and conference gold medals in 4x200m and 4x400m relays. He also earned a bronze medal in the 300m dash at the Canada West Championships. Ezeta was unable to continue with the Dinos after his diagnosis.
In addition to his athletic achievements, Ezeta was an integral part of the Dinos community. He was known for setting up game nights for his teammates and hosting friendly competitions such as vertical jump challenges in the weight room.
“The white chalk handprints can still be seen,” said Dinos track and field assistant coach Brenda Van Tighem.
Ezeta’s family is currently working with the U of C to set up a scholarship in his name.
Dinos athletic director Christine Stapleton said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mariano and offer our condolences to his family, friends and teammates. Mariano’s contributions to the Dinos track and field team will always be remembered.”
A mass and celebration of life ceremony will be held for Ezeta on Friday, May 5. Details are on the Dinos website. Attendees at both events are encouraged to bring donations for the scholarship in lieu of flowers. The U of C is also flying its flag at half-mast that day.