Three El Paso cross country student-athletes have a lot to be thankful for this season as each one made their commitments to compete at the next level in the early signing period.
Michael Abeyta signed with the University of Oregon, Nick Gonzalez with St. Edwards and Seth Andrade signed with UT-Tyler.
A star at Hanks, Abeyta fulfilled a childhood goal of competing for the Ducks.
“Since I was 10 years old, I’ve always dreamed about going to the University of Oregon,” he said. “People in middle school would always tell me ‘you’re never going to get there, they won’t recruit you, they don’t take people from Texas, much less El Paso.’”
Abeyta’s resume is impressive.
He won two UIL State Cross Country silver medals – his sophomore and senior years – was sixth is freshman and fifth his junior year, and was All State all four years.
This year’s Region 1-5A time of 14:35.10 was the fastest regional time in El Paso history.
He has also won two state gold medals – in the 1600 meters (2017) and in the 800 meters (2018), a silver in the 1600 (2018) and a bronze in the 1600 (2019).
“People thought I was crazy, but I proved them wrong,” he said. “Now that it’s a reality, I am so blessed to be able to run there. I hope to make Hanks and El Paso proud.”
He picked Oregon over Oklahoma State University, Texas, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Georgetown.
Hanks coach Kim Gomez said Abeyta is the best athlete she has ever coached.
“He came to me already a great runner, his dad has done amazing things with him since he was a little boy,” she said. “I’ve coached 36 years and I’ve seen the Culpeppers, Gilbert Contreras, the Luceros, and I think Michael is the best distance runner ever in El Paso.”
Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez picked St. Edwards, a Division 2 school in Concordia, Texas.
“The big pull for me was that I wanted to run at a program that I felt that I could grow in,” he said. “With coach (Ryan) Ponsonby and coach (Sharlie) Brooks, I thought that I could really grow under their coaching.”
He was also looking for school where he could excel academically.
“Academics are a huge deal for me and I feel that at St. Edwards I’ll have the best opportunities to grow as a student,” he said. “Eventually, I want to go to medical school and St. Edwards will prepare me for that.”
He also took a visit to Division 1 Incarnate Word before deciding on St. Edwards.
“I put my running to the side and based my decision on how good the school was academically,” he said. “I wanted to be the first in my family to run at a Division 1 school, which is one of the reasons I was looking hard at Incarnate Word. But I decided that it’s not really running I want to pursue after college, its education and that’s why I chose St. Edwards.”
Seth Andrade, a senior at Americas, was also looking for a school that was strong academically.
“I was primarily looking for a good engineering school,” he said. “I had been e-mailing coaches at schools that had good engineering programs. I started with the Colorado School of Mines but the coach didn’t respond.”
He eventually e-mailed the coach at UT-Tyler and a trip was immediately set up.
“When I went on my visit, it was really beautiful and the environment felt right,” he said. “The coach is young but I could tell by the way he speaks and how he presented himself that he was very knowledgeable and has accomplished many things.”
While on the visit, Andrade trained with the team.
“It was a really fun experience,” he said. “They each had their own personalities. They were really great. Everything that they showed me was a check on my checklist of things I wanted in a school.”