On the Right Path
Proving Her High School Coach Wrong Motivates Lucia Alfaro All the Way to Siena Heights
Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Sept. 1, 2015 edition of the Monroe News. This edited version was used with permission.
Lucia Alfaro ’17 (below middle) wasn’t exactly encouraged on her first day of cross country practice as a Milan freshman.
“She couldn’t even run a half mile,” recalls Big Reds coach Steve Porter. “I told her this is a running sport and she might want to go out for volleyball.”
Alfaro got mad and was determined to prove her coach wrong. Back then she ran the 3.1-mile cross country distance in 28 or 29 minutes and was Milan’s slowest runner as a freshman. Three years later, she was the Big Reds fastest runner and a state qualifier.
Today she captains the Siena Heights University cross country team and also captains the Saints’ indoor and outdoor track and field squads. She qualified for NAIA nationals last year and ran a marathon—26.2 miles—in Alabama.
She doesn’t mind Porter’s blunt assessment six years ago.
“That was the little kick I needed to get into it and start working hard,” she said. “It kind of jump-started something inside of me. I’ve never been so determined to prove someone wrong. I started training harder, I started training faster and taking summer training very seriously. I got obsessed with it and didn’t stop.”
Alfaro had run in sixth grade but didn’t do any training before coming out for cross country at the start of high school. She said Porter’s account of her first practice was a slight exaggeration.
“I could run a half mile,” she said. “I think I had to do a two-mile run, and I could only run a mile. I walked the rest of the way. His words were the little kick I needed to get into it and start working hard.”
Alfaro kept working hard and her times kept dropping. She went from the slowest runner on the team to one of the top five and then became the team leader and a state qualifier as a senior. She eventually earned an athletic and academic scholarship to Siena Heights where she is a junior majoring in chemistry. She wants to attend graduate school and become a pharmacist.
“Just being given the opportunity to even run in college is awesome,” she said.
Alfaro already was running year-round with her training work in high school. Now her season runs year-round with cross country followed by indoor track and then outdoor track. Success came quickly in college. Alfaro ran the half marathon as a freshman. She ran fast enough to qualify for nationals but was directed the wrong way and ended up running a 25k (15.5 miles) instead of 13.1 miles, so she didn’t get the qualification. As a sophomore she took second place in the half marathon, running 1: 28.48, and easily beating the automatic qualifying mark for nationals by one minute, 12 seconds.
As a captain, she says she “has a lot more responsibility. Now it’s even more important how hard I work. I want to be a role model and to keep everyone working together as a team. That was my goal.”
Why does Alfaro run? “I run because no one can tell me what I can and cannot do,” she said. “I’m the only one who can say if I can’t do something, whether that be how far or how hard I run that day.
“My body and mind can tell me to stop a million times, but it’s my heart that never gives up, and that’s what makes this sport so special. Because once you fall in love with it, you can’t stop.”