LOWELL -- Ruben Sanca, who starred for the UMass Lowell track and field and cross country teams from 2005-10, will represent his native country, the Cape Verde Islands, at the 2012 Olympic Games this summer.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Sanca, who enjoyed a milestone career and is now the business manager for the University's Office of Student Affairs. But he believes it will when he's marching in the opening ceremonies with the Cape Verdean contingent at London's Olympic Stadium July 27th.
Sanca, who now lives in Dracut, will run the 5,000 meters preliminary Wednesday, Aug. 8. The 5,000 meters final is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11.
"Basically I would like to get back to my (personal record, 13:56.46) and to just be in the race for the majority of the race," Sanca said. "It's going to be difficult because all of these people are a lot faster than my PR. I just want to go out there and give myself a shot and qualify for the next round."
Sanca, 25, who immigrated to the U.S. from Cape Verde when he was 12, received his Olympic bid through a "wild card" system in which a country is allotted a certain number of entries for their top athletes. He is currently one of three athletes from Cape Verde to qualify for the 2012 Games.
Sanca and UMass Lowell's director of cross country and track and field Gary Gardner will leave for London on July 23.
It was his aforementioned 5,000 meters result, achieved at the 2010 Boston University Terrier Invitational, which drew the attention of the Cape Verde Athletics Federation.
"They've looked at my performances from 2010 to 2012," Sanca explained.
Since graduating, Sanca has enjoyed a successful career which includes several impressive titles and appearances in three international competitions, all of which contributed to his selection. He is Cape Verde's record holder in the 3,000 meters (8:07.50) and the marathon (2:18.43).
"I'm healthy and I've got time to get in even better shape before I go," said Sanca, who is logging between 110-120 miles per week. "I've been doing quite a bit of road races to work my strength. In the next month we're going to pick things up and hit the track more."
Sanca is one of several former UMass Lowell athletes to compete at the Olympic level. Former rower Shelagh Donohoe ('88), now the head rowing coach at the University of Rhode Island, was a silver medalist in the women's four at Barcelona in 1992.
The list also includes a handful of former hockey standouts, including Mark Kumpel ('83), a member of the U.S. hockey team in Sarajevo 1984; as well as Yorick Treille ('02), Laurent Meunier ('02) and Baptiste Amar ('03), who played for France in Salt Lake City '02; and David Delfino ('88), who represented Italy at Albertville '92, Lillehammer '94 and Nagano '98.