CHICO, CAl - One Chico State senior says he'll be walking in graduation this Sunday in big part because of his love for the sport of running.
Alfonso Cisneros Martinez came with his family from Mexico to California at age 11. After a couple of years in Long Beach they moved to tiny McFarland, California.
It sits in the heart of agriculture, with a population dominated by immigrant farm workers, his dad being one of them.
About a half-hour drive from Bakersfield, there's not a lot to do in the town of a little more than 12,000, so for many, trouble is the easiest thing to get into.
"There's a lot of problems with gangs," Cisneros Martinez says. "A lot of my friends were into that."
But instead of hitting the streets, Cisneros Martinez found a different outlet.
"I decided to join sports and I finally found that running was the thing for me.
He kept improving through his years at McFarland High School, a place known for churning out runners. And it was his success on the track that showed him what he was capable outside of the sport.
"That made me realize that I had potential to apply the same hard work strategy not just in running but in academics," he said.
Once Cisneros Martinez graduated from Mcfarland High School in 2010 he made the trek to Chico State. But he wasn't arriving to a scholarship or even a spot on the cross country or track teams.
"Pretty much I had to beg my way in to show that I wanted it, that I was serious about it," he said.
Proving himself, Cisneros Martinez earned a spot on the track and cross country teams.
In his sophomore year, he earned a spot on the Chico State championship roster. The next year, he took it a step farther, winning the CCAA championship in the 10k. Last fall, he helped the team win the CCAA championship. When they went on to the NCAA championship, he just barely missing out on All American honors.
This Sunday he has one more hurdle, walking the stage and accepting his diploma at graduation -- fittingly at the Chico State stadium he's performed in so many times.
He says it's a day his family has dreamed of since they arrived in California.
"The main reason my dad brought me here was to take advantage of the opportunity and education here," he said. "My dad and my mom are just going to be like 'Oh, he made it.'"
Cisneros plans to continue his education, earn a teaching credential and possibly one day even get his master's degree. He says hopes in the future to become a track coach either on the high school or collegiate level and pass on the lessons he learned through the sport of running to generations to come.
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