Story and photos by Herman Delgado
Many words come to mind when describing the 2017 UIL Class 4A State Champion San Elizario High School Boys Cross-Country team. Work ethic, determination, passion, love, commitment, dedication, unity and family are some one can pick up while standing out on the track and inside the athletic field house.
These young men captured their fourth straight Class 4A Championship in Round Rock and stand alone at the top when it comes to bragging rights in El Paso regional high school athletics. Beginning in 2014, they have stood on the champion’s podium every year since and they don’t plan on relinquishing that spot any time soon.
Seth Rodriguez, a sophomore who has been running track for the past four years, and in his first year on the SEHS varsity cross-country team, is quite proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“I feel like I represent El Paso and San Elizario as a whole,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like I have accomplished something big as a first step in my career.”
He says his family is behind him. “They support me a lot and they get me everything I need in order for me to succeed.”
Freshman Edwin Gomez took the gold medal after finishing with a remarkable time of 15:36.16, making him the Individual State Champion. It’s his first year of competing at the high school level. He has the opportunity to make school history by becoming the school’s only four-time state champion.
“I took an interest in track when my oldest brother Mario brought me to practice one day,” Gomez said. “He later showed me a picture and videos of Steve Prefontaine.”
He is very soft spoken, but the state champion carries a big smile and enjoys being around his teammates.
“We spend a lot of time together, and we go out and eat all the time,” Gomez said.
Coach Cesar Morales and assistant coach Jorge Maese have the same philosophy when it comes to their team, sport, family, and students. They are humble, but very passionate about what they do on the track, in the classroom, and at home with their families. It’s a combination that continues to bring success to their program, the community and their families. Morales a 2001 graduate from Clint High School, ran both track and cross-country during his years there. His passion was soccer, but at the time there was no soccer program, so he joined the track team since it was so similar to the sport he had so much passion for. He has been an integral part of the track and cross-country curriculum at SEHS and his passion for the sport and love for the kids is what keeps him going.
“I think the key is to be passionate, if they see passion in a coach and see that the coach believes in the program and the kids itself, automatically they start doing whatever you tell them to do,” Morales said. “We always see the resemblance between running and life, we always put that as an example. The harder you work the more accomplishments you’re going to get and you have to get up and down just like in the race, so we make connections with life and they see it somehow.”
Maese, a 1998 graduate from Socorro High School, has the same passion and drive as Morales and one can immediately see why these kids take to them and respect them.
“We do have a very good connection with the kids, not only with these kids but in our classrooms also, so I believe that is why we’ve been very successful. We have the same connection with the kids in the class, that we have out here,” Maese said. “We try to encourage every kid to get involved in any sport, not just in our sport.”
The passion, motivation, and love that both coaches have for what they do are what makes this program such a success, and their families are a big part of this success.
In parting, Maese was asked about his family and he got very emotional. “My motivation in life are my kids, the apple of my eye are my kids, I want the best for them, I always strive to do better for them,” he said. “If they see me doing positive things, they’ll follow. I’m running away from a lot of negative, I’m running away and I’m not looking back.”