Just like anyone who knows football knows Tom Brady and anyone who knows rock knows Led Zeppelin, anyone who knows school sports knows Eric Safai. Last year’s sophomore Athlete of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year, Eric not only played on three varsity teams as a freshman, he was also an immediate impact.
Eric is currently on pace to win the letterman blanket awarded to athletes with nine varsity letters—as a junior. And Eric will have done it while managing an unweighted 4.0 GPA while taking honors and AP classes and playing club soccer with the Palo Alto Pulse.
While Eric shines on the soccer field as a defender, he is known for being one of the fastest and most balanced runners in the school, having both great speed and stamina. Though most people just assume that Eric has been running forever to get that qualified, he had never either run cross country or track until his freshman year, whereas he has been playing soccer for 10 years.
“I started [running] to get in shape for soccer, thin it just took off from there,” Eric said, who now runs a four and a half minute mile and completes a typical two mile cross country course in just over 10 minutes. That’s as far as 32 straight-aways on the schools track—each of which is completed in fewer than 19 seconds—up and down hills and dirt paths.
Despite his athletic prowess, Eric does not bask in the admiration of others, considering himself neither a role model nor a leader, just an athlete.
“I try not to think about what other people think about me,” Eric said. “On our team, people say ‘Eric you’re a beast’ or ‘Eric you’re a god,’ but I’ve never thought about if people actually look up to me.”
He does admit however, that “it is pretty cool.”
“Eric is a much quieter athlete,” cross country captain senior Scotty Bohrer said. “He likes to work in the background. But he’s definitely an inspiration. “
This respect that his teammates have for him stems from how hard he has worked. Eric continues to work hard and push himself to his limit. He always wants to perform at his personal best.
“He is very talented, but the reason he’s where he is today is because he worked hard to get there,” Scotty said, “He dedicated himself to running and the sport.”
Eric himself attributes some of his success to excellent coaching from head coach PattiSue Plumer. However, Eric said that despite her screaming or cheering from the sidelines, “it’s my decision if I want to push myself harder.” He often does, as he pushed himself to the point of vomiting after all but one track race last season.
And what motivates him to exert such absolute effort?
“I’m not a perfectionist,” Eric said. “I don’t mind if I’m the best or if I’m not the best. I do it for the competition and [because] I love doing sports… But I do strive to make my ability the best it can be.”