SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – A San Diego high school’s cross country team has made some strides over the past year as its roster – which is made up mostly of refugees from other countries – continues to grow.
The Crawford High School cross country recently won a city league title and now they have their eyes set on the state championships.
"This is family, they are more than a team," said team captain, Erik Cisneros.
Eight-percent of the cross country team are refugees – many from war torn countries like the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan.
For many runners like Nader Ali, being on the team is helping and giving them the opportunity to reach their goals of attending college.
“We all want to go to college. We want to be the first in our family,” he said.
Their coach, Tlaloc Venancio, or Coach T, is a former collegiate record breaking cross country athlete. He said he found his calling at Crawford High School.
“It makes me feel this is the place for me. I have found my place in life and this is it,” he said.
For Monae Jones, who is one of five girls on the team, being on the cross country team has helped her on and off the track.
“It’s helped me become a better student. [I am] starting to get their mentally and starting to become a better runner,” she said.
The hardship for many, however, is buying running shoes. They only last about two months and wear and tear can cause injuries for the runners.
Each pair costs $150.
“I didn’t want to go home and tell them [his parents]. They would be like ‘no, we don’t have the money to buy you shoes,’” said Ali.
The team which started with six runners last year has grown to 25. Runners said new shows keeps them motivated to go beyond their achievements of winning city league, but making it to the state championship meet.
“When you get new ones, it feels like you are running on clouds,” said Jones.
The Crawford High School Alumni Association helped Coach T meet the original goal of $2,000 for shoes through a GoFundMe, but with higher aspirations there is a continual need.
“We can do this together. That is the environment we want to create on our team this season,” said Coach T.
The team is close to raising its $7,000 goal, but more is needed and they hope the public will help the team achieve their goal.
The new Crawford High School stadium is expected to open in the fall, but for now the team practices at a nearby middle school.
Some of the footage in this video story was shot using a GoPro camera.