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El Paso High sophomore makes Mexican women's national ice hockey team

 

(EL PASO HIGH SCHOOL -- Sept. 7, 2021) — El Paso High sophomore Camryn Heon Diaz de Leon’s shot at a childhood goal of playing ice hockey in the Winter Olympics might come much sooner than expected. 

The 15-year-old local ice hockey phenom last month was selected to play for the Mexican National Women’s Team that is currently training to make a historic appearance at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Heon is commuting between El Paso and Mexico City to train with the team and will travel to the Czech Republic later this month for an exhibition game before heading to Poland in October for the Olympic pre-qualifier.

“It’s such a big honor,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I knew when I was little, I wanted to be in the Olympics for some team – either Canada, U.S. or Mexico.” 

Success and passion for hockey are in the Heon family genes. 

Dad Corey Heon is general manager of the El Paso Rhinos. Originally from Canada, he came to El Paso in the early 2000s to play professionally for the Buzzards. Here he met his wife, who is originally from the town of Manuel Benavides in the state of Chihuahua and now calls El Paso home. 

“My wife and I are really proud of her and excited for her,” Corey said. “The Rhinos have been a big part of this. Our whole organization since she started, helped her and backed her.” 

Corey has high hopes for his daughter in the sport that has supported him all these years. But that wasn’t always the case, Camryn’s first experience on the ice at 3-years-old wasn’t a good indication of how her hopes and dreams would play out.

“I hated it,” said the self-proclaimed rink rat. “I grew up running around the rink but never really wanted to play until I saw girls and more kids my age playing.” 

At about 7, she started playing with the Rhinos girls’ program, then the boys’ team, and later made it to the New Mexico state team. More recently, she got involved with the Mexico National girls’ under-18 team and ultimately the Mexican national team where she is the youngest player by four years — the only one with American citizenship. 

International rules allow players with heritage in different countries to represent nations other than the ones that grant them citizenship at sporting events. Because of her parents’ national backgrounds, Camryn qualifies to play for Canada and Mexico as well as the United States.   

“I’m super excited that I got to start at such a young age. Hopefully, that will take me further,” said the 15-year-old defensive player whose teammates are much older and experienced. “Right now, my goal is to help my team win and advance to the next round. Eventually, I’d like to be a leader over there.”

Camryn ultimately wants to continue playing hockey, compete in the Olympics multiple times, and skate onto the women’s hockey team at Harvard University. With those lofty goals comes an incredible commitment to both her sports and education. 

“My teachers have all been very supportive and have helped me with time management and any questions I have,” Camryn said. “Without the teachers I have right now, school and hockey would be much more difficult.” 

Camryn maintains a rigid training schedule when at home to maintain her skills, agility and strength. Cardio and quick feet drills, weights and individual training on the ice with Rhinos coaches keep her on her toes and ready for Olympic level competition.  

“My days are packed with training, school and sleeping,” she said.

When her packed schedule allows for it, Camryn is in front of a camera modeling. 

The 5-foot-6 athlete with blue eyes easily transitions from hockey to modeling. She currently models for Bazaar Modeling Management in El Paso but even before contracting with them, she made a commercial with Amazon for their Echo Frames. In the Amazon promo, Camryn is – of course – playing hockey.

“I plan on doing sports modeling, and local modeling here in El Paso soon, but my next big move will be to compete in the Miss Earth Teen Pageant in El Paso this upcoming year and hopefully compete at the national level for this pageant and the Miss Teen USA,” she said. “My overall goal with modeling is to hopefully combine the hockey and modeling background and do sports modeling all over the world.”

Above all, though, Camryn wants to inspire more girls to play hockey and excel at the sport. 

"I would like to aim to promote projects that empower girls' education and sports, locally in El Paso and Mexico," she said. "I'd like to promote the girl's hockey program and seek funding for those in need."

Story by Reneé de Santos