Four-year varsity runner Veronica Moreno never finished in the top-10 at the Region IV-4A meet prior to last week’s race. But on that day in Corpus Christi, Moreno finished seventh overall, qualifying as an individual racer to state. This will be her second appearance at state, first since the Lady Apaches advanced as a team in 2017.
When asked on her initial thoughts after realizing she was going to state, Moreno explained how it was a surreal moment for her crossing the finish line.
“It was the last 150 meters of the race and I started to pass people,” she explained. “I was in 10th up until that spot, and top 10 make it, so whenever I was finishing, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m in the top 10.’ It was really surreal because all these years before I hadn’t even been in the top 15 or anything like that.”
Moreno believes the biggest difference between this season and seasons past is her mindset.
“I know for a fact it was my mentality,” Moreno said. “All these years, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be good and be in the top 10. But the day before the race, I just wanted to have fun and give it all to God, and so this sport is very mental, so I know that’s what changed. I don’t want to be in control of the race. I just want to let Him have control.”
Cross-country head coach and girls’ athletic director Kevin Johnson talked about Moreno’s effort as being an important factor in Moreno’s growth as a runner.
“She has always been the type of runner to give it her all,” Johnson said. “Her level of commitment and level of dedication this past year is the reason that she is where she is today. She made a huge leap from last year, where she was in the 20s [to] finishing in the top 10 to qualify individually. That says so much about her character, her drive, her ‘want.’ Veronica is the type of person [where] if she sees something, she’s going to go after it. She’s proven it time and time again throughout the season.”
Although she’s fulfilling her dream of getting to the state meet, Moreno can’t ignore the fact that she’s going in by herself, instead of with the rest of her teammates.
“It’s hard to be happy,” she admitted. “I mean, I’m thankful to have another race, another opportunity to show people what I’m capable of. But I know these girls deserve to make it too, each of them, the whole team, worked hard for us to be able to make it to state. Each of them has the physical capability, but it’s very mental. If you’re not in the right mindset, it will set you back.”
“I’m nervous about going into it without my team,” Moreno added. “They’ve been by my side this whole team. They’re my family and I wish they were with me.”
Moreno later made it a point to talk about both the boys and girls on the Apaches cross-country team and their efforts at the Region IV-4A meet, giving her teammates the proper credit she believes they deserve.
“On that, it says a whole lot about how selfless she is,” Johnson said of Moreno’s efforts to highlight the team as a whole, rather than her personal accomplishments. “She loves to put her teammates above her. She wants to make sure that everybody on the team is getting their workouts in, getting their long runs in. She wants to make sure everyone is a good place. If somebody is having a bad practice, she’ll go up to them and talk to them, she’ll find a way to motivate them. If someone is having a hard time throughout the day, Veronica is going to be there to just encourage them to push them, to help them and just know, ‘I’ve gone through these same things and you’re going to make it through it too.’”
Moreno’s legacy, according to Johnson, will be one of setting a path toward success for her younger teammates. Improving from finishing the meet in the 20s to getting to the top 10, like Moreno did this year, is an attainable goal for anyone in Gonzales. She hopes to make everyone in Gonzales proud, from her immediate family to everyone else in the community.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to make it to state,” Moreno said. “It’s always been my dream since I was a little kid and I feel like I’m finally fulfilling that dream. I always loved running when I was little. That was my passion because my sister was a good runner. I just don’t want to disappoint my young self and I don’t want to disappoint my team and I don’t want to disappoint my coaches or the town. I’m thankful that I’m able to represent them at the state meet, and myself as well.”
The UIL Class 4A girls race is set for noon this Saturday, Nov. 9 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.