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The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

Memories of State Meet motivate Merino

Junior+Elijah+Merino+jokes+around+with+his+teammates+and+coach+Chris+Elliott+after+earning+a+medal+at+an+August+meet+at+Kingwood+High+School.+Merino+has+had+a+strong+start+to+the+season+and+hopes+to+return+to+the+State+Meet+this+fall.
Maya Ortiz
Junior Elijah Merino jokes around with his teammates and coach Chris Elliott after earning a medal at an August meet at Kingwood High School. Merino has had a strong start to the season and hopes to return to the State Meet this fall.

Every time junior Elijah Merino toes the starting line of a cross country course or a track, he turns to something that has given him the strength to pursue his passion for the sport: his faith.

Among his arsenal of pre-race Bible verses is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart….”

That belief has been key to Merino’s success, encouraging him to sacrifice time, money, and unhealthy indulgences in order to fully dedicate himself to his sport.

This year when I go to State, I can do great at it. I can remember how I felt getting passed up and feeling defeated. I’m not going to let that happen again

— Elijah Merino, junior

“Yeah, running’s fun; but if you want to compete at the national level, you have to stay disciplined,” Merino said. “I can’t do things that a lot of high schoolers would do in their day to day life, because otherwise I could imagine my health and not running. I’m very, very strict on myself about a lot of things.”

Merino was initially inspired to take up running after witnessing his sister compete in a razor-close sprint to the finish line of a cross country course. The excitement around the event encouraged Merino to participate in track and cross country at Kingwood Middle school, where he developed a passion for the sports. He has since enjoyed many successes, recording a mile time of 4:30, a two mile time of 9:37, and a five kilometer time of 15:59.

Last year, Merino’s cross country season culminated in a trip to the State Meet in Round Rock, Texas, heavy with expectations after finishing No. 8 overall at the region meet. Things did not go as planned, however, as Merino developed a fever of 103 degrees the night before the race. The illness carried into the next morning, and Merino was unable to perform to his usual standards. Merino found himself physically unable to maintain his usual pace and was quickly overtaken by the competition.

“There was never a thought that I wouldn’t finish,” Merino said. “But every time I saw somebody pass me it was definitely discouraging. I hated it.”

Merino competed along with six of his teammates, including graduates Jose Antonio Maldonado, Osvaldo Jasso, Christian Smith, and Corey Foltz. Though it was heartbreaking not to be able to give the best account of his abilities, Merino was more concerned with the success of his team, especially the graduating seniors.

“As sad as it was, it was more important to me that I saw my team [compete] at State, especially the seniors like Ozzy and Jose and them, because I knew it was their last chance,” Merino said. “At the end of November I was thinking, I have two more years to do this, you know? It’s one race.”

Merino recognized that his performance at State was out of his control, and sometimes it would be that way. Rather than allow it to continue to affect his performances, Merino made the decision to put the experience behind him, and to learn from it.

“Now I can confidently say that I’m no longer using it as a source of fear, but more of a source of motivation,” Merino said. “This year when I go to State, I can do great at it. I can remember how I felt getting passed up and feeling defeated. I’m not going to let that happen again.”

Merino’s mental rebound has been evident in his start to this cross country season. Merino recorded his personal best 5k time at a meet in Grand Prairie, finishing first overall. He also led the team to victory over Frisco Reedy cross country, a top-level program.

Kim Ackerman, the boys cross country assistant coach, attributes much of Merino’s success to his character and work ethic.

Ackerman said that Merino serves as a leader for his teammates by providing the emotion and passion that is required to maintain the hard work and discipline that the sport requires. His consistency has put him in a position from which he can achieve success at a state level and even challenge long-standing school records.

“He’s coachable,” Ackerman said. “His faith, his ability to really embrace people. He’s not missing practices. He’s on the right path.”

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