The Heart of a Champion

The pain and disappointment Cleo Naranjo felt two years ago in Albuquerque propelled the 12 year-year-old to a national championship in 2017.

This summer track season, the El Paso Panthers distance runner has her sights set on repeating her USATF National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championship in the 3,000 meter run.

The defense of that All American, national championship performance began June 2 at the 2nd Sara Bone Invitational where she placed first in the 1,500 in 5:09.93, she competed in the 13-14 age division

“I made it to regionals in Albuquerque two years ago,” she said. “At the hotel, I didn’t eat much but my stomach was hurting when the race started.”

During the 3,000 meter race – a smudge under two miles (1.86 miles to be exact) – she began to cramp.

“I was still running in the top five and the top five advance to nationals but it just got worse and worse,” she said, grimacing at the memory. “Towards the end of the race I started to feel really bad, Right then I knew my race was over, I was done.”

She ended up finishing last – dead last.

On that fateful day in July 2016, on the Milne Stadium track in Albuquerque, Naranjo discovered   her passion to run, to compete, to chase a national championship.

“From that day forward, she knew where she needed to be to compete at that level,” said Sergio Talavera, the El Paso Panthers coach. “From then on, she started training with a chip on her shoulder. She wanted it, it was in her heart and through her hard work and her parents support she made it happen.”

At last year’s USATF National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships at the University of Kansas, she won the 3,000 meters national championship in a time of 10:44.08 and was All American in the 1,500 meters finishing 6th in 5:03.94.

Naranjo, a former soccer player, has been running for only three seasons.

“Two years ago, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like it,” she said. “Running was a new thing for me so I didn’t know how to run or to pace myself.’

Talavera placed her in the sprints to start but she didn’t feel she could excel in those shorter distances.

“The first practice I had with distance was in the sand and that was really hard,” she said. “But considering it was my first time and it was in the sand coach said I did really good. He knew I was a distance runner right then and there.”

She loves putting in the miles.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I’ve gained a lot of experience running the 3,000 so I’m use to how to pace myself and what interval times I have to hit in order to be where I want to be at the end.”

Naranjo will race in the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 at this weekend’s 3rd Annual Panthers Track & Field Invitational at Mt. View High School.

The running events begin at 5 p.m. Friday and 7:15 a.m. Saturday.

Talavera said he knew Naranjo was special the first day of practice three years ago.

“I use her as an example as to what hard work and dedication to your sport will bring,” he said. “There are a lot of people, especially in El Paso, who don’t believe they can become a national champion.

“When other runners were finishing in the top three or top five, I would say, ‘there are only three or f20180606_201105our kids standing before you, what makes them any better?’ I tell them they are there in front because they are the ones with the bigger heart that’s what pushes them through it. That’s what makes them a champion and that’s what Cleo has, a heart of a champion. She is an athlete who knows what she wants.”

Naranjo is the first El Paso Panther athlete to win a national championship.

“I want to get back to nationals,” she said. “It was such a great experience. It’s been worth all the miles that I’ve put in.”

Border Association Season Kicks Off

Hundreds of athletes 6 to 18 years old competed in the 2nd Sara Bone Invitational Track Meet at Parkland High School June 2. It was the first meet of the USATF/Border Association season.

The next meet will be June 8-9 at Mt. View High School. The meet will be hosted by the El Paso Panthers Track Team. Here is the schedule: www.border.usatf.org/USATF_ASSOC_53/files/7e/7ea477df-4dc8-4481-8aaa-1cd3a482ed1e.pdf

Click here for results. www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/meet/348229/results

 For more photos of the Sara Bone Inviational:  www.facebook.com/EPrunning

USA Track and Field Border Association season begins June 1-2

 

Hundreds of athletes will compete in the USA Track and Field Border Association season which begins June 1 and 2 with the Sarah Bone and Sam Clemmons Invitational at Parkland High School.

The three-meet season will prepare the young athletes for the USATF/Border Association Junior Olympics June 26 to July 1 at UTEP’s Kidd Field.

The top four individuals and relay teams in each event in each age division advance to the USATF Region 10 Championships in Aurora, Colo., on July 5 to July 8.

The other two meets are the El Paso Panthers Invitational on June 8-9 at Mt. View High School and the 31st annual El Paso Wings Invitational at Burges High School.

Track and field athletes from 8 to 18 years old compete in age-appropriate divisions separated by two years. These age divisions provide young athletes the opportunity to compete with other athletes of similar ability.

For more information log on to http://www.border.usatf.org.

The age divisions for 2018 are:

Age Division Year of Birth
8 & Under (previously Sub-bantam) 2010+*
9 – 10 (previously Bantam) 2008-2009
11 – 12 (previously Midget) 2006-2007
13 – 14 (previously Youth) 2004-2005
15 – 16 (previously Intermediate) 2002-2003
17 – 18 (previously Young) 2000-2001**

 

* Per USATF Rule 300.1 (c) “Athletes must be at least seven (7) years of age on December 31 of the current year to compete at the Youth Athletics or Junior Olympic National Championships.”

** Athletes who are still 18 through the final day of the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships are eligible to compete in the 17-18 age division through that meet. This extended eligibility does not apply to cross country events.USATF_Border_primary_2colorB

About Us

Running is a passion. For those who participate and for those fans who appreciate the will power and determination of those runners who keep on pushing, even though their bodies are telling them different. Running is a relatively new obsession for me. Most of my family runs. I was married to runner who made it to UIL Texas State Track and Field Championship in the 800-meters. Our son Deric was an All-City runner at El Paso Eastwood in 2014, went on to become an All American in the 5,000 meters at South Plains College in 2017 and earned a scholarship to run at East Carolina University.

As for me, I detested running. I mean, I would run to stay in shape to officiate high school basketball games but now I run just for the sheer enjoyment of it. My true love of running didn’t find me until the summer of 2016.  Once I was bitten, it was all over. Running and I began our love affair and our love has only proven stronger as time goes on.

There have been some set-backs along the way – injuries, lack of motivation, sometimes claiming to be “too busy” – but I have always come back. It has become a part of me, an opportunity to clear my mind of the daily rigors of life, to use my God-given ability and to realize how lucky I am to have two strong limbs to carry me through the best and worst times.

Running provides a place where runners can draw strength from places they have to discover for themselves. During a very challenging part of my life, I became severely depressed and felt overwhelmed by the things happening in my life. Running became my solace, my only guaranteed ‘me time,’ where I could sort through life’s complications.

What I have realized is that you don’t have to be young to start your journey. I started my running odyssey when I was 49 years old. You can start at any stage of life. I have also learned it’s not how fast you are or how far you go that makes you a runner. It’s all about the adventure and the people you meet along the way. And what an amazing supportive group of people. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, other runners will be there encouraging you and building you up. It’s a community that cares.

And this is why I created this blog, to tell the many stories runners have locked up in their hearts and souls. A place where people can share their innermost thoughts about what does for them. A place where people will appreciate others and to realize that running is a gift.

On this blog you will find weekly profiles on runners of all levels and ages, top 10 high school cross country boys and girls teams along with the top 25 times. You will be able to find schedules and results for high school cross country and track, the USA Track & Field Border Association meets and the many road races in El Paso.

Community, commentary and profile pieces will be a big part of this blog so input is vital in the success of this endeavor. We will seek videos, photos, and written content from your users.