Northern Scottsdale native Sabrina Arevalo was walking by Scottsdale Martial Arts Center off Bell Road when she noticed the kids training inside the dojo.
“I was fascinated with how intense they were as they trained, but I could also tell they were enjoying the class,” she recalled.
After taking one trial karate class, Arevalo was hooked.
She was 5 then; and now, 13 years of training later, Arevalo is on her way to Guayaquil, Ecuador, to represent team USA Karate at the 2019 Junior Pan American Championships Aug. 26-31.
“I am extremely excited to be a part of the U.S. team and to train alongside such amazing athletes, while also building friendships,” Arevalo told the Progress.
“Plus, I just love to compete; I absolutely love the feeling of going out on the mat and putting my training into practice.”
Arevalo previously competed at the 2019 USA Karate National Championships and Team Trials in Schaumburg, Illinois in July and secured herself a spot on the U.S. Junior National Karate Team.
The Junior National team consists of the best athletes between the ages of 12 to 20, who will represent the United States in the prestigious international event.
“Representing the U.S. Junior National Team has been a long-time goal for me,” she said. “I’m looking forward to traveling to Ecuador and giving it my all.”
Arevalo dedicated years to karate training, core conditioning and competing year-round to achieve her goal — a goal she’s had since she was 12 years old.
She said that depending on the week, she’ll spend 15 to 20 hours training both inside and outside the dojo.
“Inside the dojo, I train to perfect my skills and to practice different strategies,” Arevalo said. “Outside of the dojo, like any other major sport, I spend time in the gym working on my physical conditioning.”
SMAC owner and chief instructor Sensei Ray Hughes is proud of what Arevalo and the rest of the school’s athletes have accomplished.
“It has taken 10 years to develop this talent, and we are starting to see the fruits of their labor,” Hughes said.
For Arevalo, karate has helped her build self-confidence.
“I’ve had to push myself hard in basic training, testing and competition and know how to stay strong through it all. When faced with adversity in competition, I know how to stay composed and trust my training and my instincts,” she said.
The sport has also strengthened her public speaking skills, as part of her training involves teaching and training others.
Plus, karate taught Arevalo self-defense skills — “which is super helpful as I head off to college next month,” she said.
Arevalo isn’t the first Scottsdale resident to represent the U.S. Junior National Team.
Last year, Christian Stienstra represented team USA Karate at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
“Being on the U.S. team meant being given the honor and responsibility of representing my country, my karate dojo and all the people that have helped me over the years,” Stienstra said.
He added: “It wasn’t just the fact that I’d made the team that made me happy. It was all the people that had taught me, trained with me and supported me over the years that really made the experience one of the greatest of my life thus far. It really is the team aspect that made the U.S. Junior National Team mean so much to me.”
Because Junior National Team members and their coaches are required to cover most of their own travel expenses when representing USA Karate, the Champions Foundation of Arizona has stepped in to help offset costs for Arevalo, her family and her coach, Tyler Warren.
Warren is also vice president and school administrator of Scottsdale Martial Arts.
So far, the Champions Foundation of Arizona has raised $4,500 to help offset traveling expenses.
Their goal is to raise $7,000 to $8,000 by the end of August.
“The Champions Foundation of Arizona doesn’t want Arizona athletes to miss out on an amazing experience simply due to finances,” said a Champions Foundation of Arizona representative, adding:
“It has also been a dream of Sabrina’s, along with many of our Arizona athletes, to make the USA Karate team. Our youth should be able to see such a dream become a reality and we will support them anyway we can.”
The Champions Foundation of Arizona is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Arizona-based martial artists.
Sending Warren, the representative said, will help keep Sabrina focused and relaxed.
“Tyler has taught Sabrina since she was 6 years old and having someone that has been with you for so long, will help improve her performance,” the representative said.
Arevalo said the support of the Champions Foundation of Arizona “feels wonderful.”
“Financial support is super helpful for my family, but being able to raise funds so that my coach can be there with me is really helpful,” she said.
“Knowing that I am supported in all aspects of this upcoming journey makes me want to prepare even more so I can make my dojo and country proud.”