Stella Orechia is a professor in the physical education department at Bellevue College who was recently inducted into the hall of fame at her previous school, the College of San Mateo. She received this honor for holding the record in the 100-meter hurdle and the 400-meter hurdle. Orechia was College of San Mateo’s first female track and field champion.
In addition to being inducted into the College of San Mateo’s hall of fame, Orechia also competed in the 1977 Olympic trials and qualified for the 1984 Olympics.
“The Olympic trials is a one-try competition,” said Orechia. “Only the top three in each [track] game will make it to the event.” However, Orechia was unable to pass the trials and to her, “the biggest hardship was not making it to the Olympics.”
Nevertheless, Orechia moved on from her disappointment. “It’s like what Russell Wilson said, ‘one performance isn’t going to define me as a person and what I’ve achieved’ so it’s the same thing. All of this resembles what life skills is all about, the struggles of working to achieving goals,” said Orechia.
Orechia claims her motivation for track came from her mother, a physical education teacher, and her older brother who, according to Orechia, “was also in track when he was in high school, so he would run and I got inspired.” For Orechia, track is appealing as it is “an individual sport and I would have all of the success and all of the failure. It’s not like a team sport.”
On Friday, Jan. 23, Orechia was among 17 other individuals who were inducted into San Mateo’s hall of fame. Orechia’s name is now amongst two current Major League Baseball players and a San Francisco 49ers coach with a Super Bowl ring.
Orechia described her feelings when she found out about her induction, saying, “It was really exciting.” She stated, “I was still be in the top five for another three events so in total, I was in the top five for five events. Once I saw that I was like ‘wow that’s pretty impressive.’ So it was about three years ago that I knew that my record was still standing even after 35 and now 38 years.”
Orechia explained the induction process, saying “there is a hall of fame committee that involves administrators from the campus and of course the athletic department. They look at their archives of their results and they get nominations.” Orechia said she “I was nominated by a previous coach that I had while I was at the college, because he saw that the records were still standing.”
To celebrate her achievement, the College of San Mateo recently held a ceremony Orechia was officially inducted into the hall of fame during the ceremony at the college on Friday, Jan. 23. Orechia described the ceremony and the preparations set by the college, “they created a little cove where there is a huge bulldog statue and then next to the statue there’s these panels that they have all the plaques for all of those who have been inducted into hall of fame.”
Besides teaching at BC, Orechia has cycled 2000 miles for a sabbatical project she started in order to support Burmese refugees in the Northwest and in the border between Thailand and Burma.
Although Orechia has retired from track, she shared her goals for BC and plans to implement her experiences as an athlete into BC and the Bellevue community. According to Orechia, “All of these experiences and honors are making me a better teacher and helping me contribute to the Bellevue College experience.”