Tucson remembers former hurdler
The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Gaizka Urreiztieta was Leto Urreiztieta’s younger brother, when he is actually his older brother. The Daily Wildcat regrets the error, and a correction will run in print on Jan. 24.
The usual rowdy and thunderous McKale Center was frozen in mourning Wednesday night.
Giving their final good-byes, friends, family and members of Arizona Athletics filled the local landmark with silence in memory of Wildcat hurdler Lezo Urreiztieta.
As tons of memories and quotes from Urreiztieta’s life echoed through the arena, one thing remained constant: Everyone should “be Lezo-like.”
Steve Nguyen / The Daily Wildcat Track and field head coach Fred Harvey, athletic director Greg Byrne, Lezo's father Izaro Urreiztieta, and Gaizka Urreiztieta, Lezo's young brother, mourn the death of Lezo Urreiztieta in McKale Center on Wednesday.
“Lezo was most passionate about helping others,” Urreiztieta’s father, Izaro Urreiztieta, said at the service.
Urreiztieta was a Tucson native and a Canyon del Oro High School graduate. He was a university honor student in the department of physiology and the first ambassador of the Be Kind Step Up program. Urreiztieta died on Dec. 21 at the age of 20 following complications from brain surgery.
Though his life was cut short, his impact was strong.
Arizona’s head track and field coach, Fred Harvey, called Urreiztieta “a superhero, because he fought for others” and that “[Urreiztieta] had left the world a better place.”
His friends summed up his life as “straightforward, kind and purposeful, which is the meaning of being Lezo-like.”
During the one-hour service, sadness made it difficult for the speakers to get their words across, but it was clear that Urreiztieta was more than just an elite athlete.
He was a constant learner as well, always looking to understand himself and the world better.
Finding happiness in the small things was also a theme shared by the speakers Wednesday night.
Urreiztieta used to always ask Harvey if they could go to the Six Flags theme park, just to have fun. The simple answer caught Harvey off guard.
Being “Lezo-like” means “finding the qualities in life — that is the key to a good life,” Harvey said.
The second to last speaker was Urreiztieta’s father, who couldn’t have been happier of his son.
“Every parent’s goal should be to raise their kid better than they were,” Urreiztieta’s father said. “He was loyal, and I’m so proud of him.”
The final speaker was Urreiztieta’s older brother, Gaizka Urreiztieta.
He shared stories, too, but also inspirational and funny quotes he had found on Urreiztieta’s social media pages that represented his younger brother’s life well.
The one Gaizka Urreiztieta chose to finish with was, “life is full of hurdles, be a good hurdler.”
The Arizona track and field team has dedicated the 2014 season to Urreiztieta, and a tile will be laid along Legacy Lane in Urreiztieta’s name. A scholarship through the UA Foundation has also been created in Urreiztieta’s name.
Lastly, it was noted that even after his life was taken from him, Urreiztieta continued to “be Lezo-like” as his organs were donated
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella