After being named the Division III West Region Female Athlete of the Year, placing 17th overall at the NCAA championships and breaking several school records, senior Lenore Moreno has yet to feel the end of her collegiate cross-country career.
“I never even thought I would make it to the NCAA championships,” Moreno said.
Growing up in an competitive atmosphere, watching her older brothers play baseball, Moreno wanted to follow in their footsteps by doing something similar, playing softball.
Because softball was in the spring, Moreno decided to pick up cross-country as something to do in the fall at West Covina High School.
Her high school cross-country coach encouraged Moreno to further pursue running and told her she had a lot of potential.
“I didn’t take it seriously,” Moreno said, “I didn’t want to do this in college.”
In high school Moreno never made it to California Interscholastic Federation championships and was not known as a star runner.
But as Moreno became more involved in the sport, colleges started to contact her and by her senior year in high school, long distance running became her focus.
“I was like, oh maybe I am better off doing that then softball,” Moreno said.
Wanting to stay local with her family, Moreno decided to attend Mt. San Antonio College and join their cross country and track programs.From there Moreno said the program “turned it around for me” and developed her into the runner she is now.
After placing first in a 10,000-meter race her freshman year, she became a team captain and things started to fall in place.
“My sophomore year was just the thrill of my life,” Moreno said.
That year she placed first in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter in state and currently holds the Mt. SAC records for both.
When the time came to transfer to another college, she decided to attend Division I Cal State Long Beach on a scholarship.
“I was like, why not, it’s a D1, but I was a little nervous,” Moreno said.
Being family oriented, living on her own was difficult and after a semester Moreno left Cal State Long Beach.
Her transition to the University of La Verne came after a recommendation from a coach at Mt SAC. She got in contact with the track coach at La Verne, met the team and toured the campus.
“Right off the tour and everything, I wish I had seen this place first,” Moreno said. “I really felt the team atmosphere that’s what I really liked.”
“I think she was born fast and trains really hard too,” teammate Andrea Ramirez said.
This was the first year Ramirez ran with Moreno.
“She’s a big sweetheart. She’s super sweet, not cocky or anything. Totally modest,” Ramirez said.
Having a family atmosphere is important for Moreno.
She pushes her teammates as much as they push her, but does not strive to be a role model but an influence to her teammates.
“I didn’t become a star automatically,” she said. “I had to build myself up.”
Moreno runs anywhere from 65 to 80 miles a week, finding time to work out even with being a full-time student.
“I guess when you love something that much you find time for it,” Moreno said. “I found time whether it was super early in the morning when it’s still dark out, or late when I have to find someone to run with me.”
During a few late night runs, her dad would follow her in a car as a safety precaution.
“It would be funny because so many cars would be like you know that man is following you and I would say, ‘Yeah, it’s my dad’,” she said.
Her hard work paid off when she unexpectedly came in first place at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Multi-Dual meet in October.
“I was hoping for at least top five, top 10,” said Moreno. “And then that happened so I thought maybe I should adjust my goals.”
Leading up to NCAA championships, the mid-season departure of the cross country coach Michael Atwood affected Moreno.
“I was very hurt and just everything just tumbled down and it was just, things didn’t work out for me at Long Beach and I came here and it was just the same thing over again,” said Moreno. “But thankfully my teammates were here.”
The excitement of running with the best collegiate runners in the nation motivated Moreno more leading up to her race.
She looked up her competition, saw who was best and knew who to go after.
“It was just a thrill to start at the same starting line as them,” Moreno said.
She said placing 17th was a letdown for her.
“I was thinking about it and, you know, it was a long season,” Moreno said. “There were a lot things I accomplished that I never thought possible so that helped me to turn disappointment around into something positive.”
While it may have been a disappointment to Moreno, her strong national finish caught the eyes of her teammates.
“It’s definitely inspiring,” freshman runner Ethan McAbbe said. “It definitely shows what you can achieve when you stay focused, disciplined and work hard. She definitely a great example of what could pay off because of that.”
When not running or at school, Moreno loves going to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim games and watching Boston Celtics games.
She also loves to spending with her family and watching Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” movies.
An avid “Twilight” fan, she has “Twilight” posters hanging on the walls of her room and has seen “Breaking Dawn, Part 2” four times so far.
“A lot of my team know me as the ‘Twilight” girl,’ Moreno said.
She does not consider herself as a Twihard, though.
“To me that sounds weird because, you know how ‘Star Trek’ fans are called Trekkies? Yeah, I think that’s weird,” Moreno said. “I just call myself a “Twilight” fan.”
But she said thoughts of “Twilight” are out of her mind when she is running.
“I don’t think about that till after,” Moreno said.
She is also a fan of running city races.
She recently raced in a half marathon where she took third place, but is planning to run full marathons soon.
“It’s seems like the longer the race, the better for me,” she said.
Moreno is looking forward to the track and field season in the spring where she hopes to make it to NCAA championships in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter events.
“I just want to end my collegiate career on a good note, a fun note, just enjoying it so when I look back I could just look at all these times,” she said.
Once track season ends, Moreno plans to pursue a teaching career with the same hard work ethic she uses for running.
“That is my motto, you work hard and it’s going to pay off later,” Moreno said.
Karo Chakhlasyan can be reached at email@example.com.