Very few of us know what it is like to be a State Champion in a sport, but for Joshua Villanueva he has experienced it four times and in three different sports.
“I am competitive from birth,” Villanueva said.
While in elementary school Villanueva participated in every sport that was being played at the time.
“I would play during recess and lunch while at Kapiolani Elementary School,” he said. “So I did wrestling, kickball, flag football, just to name a few that I participated in during intramural sports in grade school.”
The school bus that dropped Villanueva at his doorstep after school even became a challenge for the youngster.
“I wondered if I could beat the bus home if I ran?” Villanueva said.
Sure enough chasing that bus home led to another sport and eventually another state championship.
In Intermediate School Villanueva started boxing for Homestead Boxing Club in Hilo.
“It was in the seventh grade that I got my first taste at victory on the amateur level,” Villanueva said. “I went on to win the state championships in the Junior Golden Gloves tournament and went to nationals.”
By his freshman year at Hilo High, Villanueva was making a name for himself in distance running and by his junior year, 1997-’98, was crowned State Champion in cross country and in the 3200 meter run on the track.
But Villanueva wasn’t done and in his senior year won yet another State Championship this time in the 3000 meter run on the track while also setting a state record which stood for three years.
Today Villanueva is back in Hilo and is employed as an Armored Car Driver by day and a full time father by night.
“I have three beautiful children, Kekoa, Dylan and Ava,” he said.
“I will make 31 years of age in September and it will also be the second anniversary of my father’s passing,” he said. “My dad pushed me to be the man I am today.”
Being an Armored Car Driver, like running, is all about time.
“I have moments of stressfulness from time to time because we always have to be on time,” Villanueva said.
How Villanueva overcomes that stress is by taking deep breathes while pushing forward.
“The concept is almost like running a 5K,” he said. “You know your time markers and you push to hit those times. When you are behind you gotta dig deep to get that strength to reach your goal.”
Villanueva stresses his spiritual belief in helping him through rough times.
“I give God the credit for all my strength, for all my victories and for all the opportunities,” he said.
Today this four time state champion stays in shape by doing a variety of activities.
“Now days I stay active by running two to four miles every other day,” he said.
Besides his running he will regularly do chin-ups, push-ups, sit ups while lifting weight on a daily bases.
“I am also paddling for Na Wa’a Hanakahi, and I participate in the regattas on the weekends,” he said.
Villanueva races in the Novice B Mix and his team has experienced some victories.
To help with his overall fitness Villanueva will also watch what he eats by trying to eat less carbohydrates and more protein.
“I drink a lot more water and stay away from carbonated drinks like sodas and beer, although I will have one from time to time,” he said.
Villanueva for the past few months has been eating a lot of tuna and steak along with lean meats.
“I don’t eat as much rice as I use to and I will definitely stay away from bread,” he said. “My goal with my diet is to get healthier, but there are perks that come with this type of diet.”
Villanueva’s father, Paul, passed away two years ago at the age of 52 of a massive heart attack.
“My father had congestive heart failure and it is important to me to live a healthy life so that I can enjoy watching my children and hopefully one day my grandchildren grow up,” he said.
But nothing comes easy as Villanueva finds a lack of motivation in working out today.
“Some days I am tired and stressed so that I don’t have the desire to do my workouts,” he said. “I work long hours on most days, so it’s hard to get a run in. On busy days I would do some pushups and chin ups to keep the muscles stimulated.”
Out of all his state championships Villanueva is most proud of what he did in his senior year at Hilo when the state converted from the 3200 to the 3000 meters and from the 1600 to the 1500 meters in track and field.
“I ran a 9:05.27 to set a state record that stood for a couple of years in the 3K,” Villanueva said. “I went into the race with a chip on my shoulder because I lost the state cross country championship and came in third.”
And what is in store for this four sport state champion?
“I plan on running in the upcoming Hilo to Volcano (distance of 31 miles all uphill) with my good friend Mike Daly,” Villanueva said. “I also would like to do a couple of 5K’s and 10K’s throughout the years.”
Whatever Villanueva plans to do in the future you can be sure he’ll do it with the heart of a champion.
And someday should you happen to see a lifelong runner come meandering through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”