It was a passion that grew over time.
Lady Bulldog seniors and cross-country co-captains Miriam Hernandez and Anette “Lupita” Manriquez both became involved with cross-country under different circumstances, but they intensified their involvement in the sport after being given the opportunity to compete.
Manriquez’s older sister, Vianney, also ran for the Lady Bulldogs.
Lupita began running in the eighth grade, her sister who was a sophomore at the time, was part of the varsity roster.
And although Manriquez had her sights set on joining her sister on the varsity roster, she was told she could be a part of the junior varsity team but would be able to train with the Lady Bulldogs. Those variables factored in the decision to pursue her dreams, serving as the impetus to continue with her running and direct her energies toward a defined objective. Manriquez began her sojourn by running in middle school races.
Hernandez started with track but her initial experience with running wasn’t what she had anticipated. However, the opportunity to run provided Hernandez with another outlet, and she made the decision to try out for cross-country the following fall.
It was one runner in particular who provided Hernandez with the proper motivation, Micaela Ruiz, who graduated this past year.
“She would yell at me all the time,” said Hernandez. “Every time she would see me walk, she would yell at me to keep going.”
The transition from one sport to the next wasn’t as seamless as Hernandez had hoped for, but she made a number of adjustments, where she went from starting and stopping to completing the whole race, showing marked improvement by the time she reached her junior year, lowering her time every meet.
Hernandez and Manriquez play a critical role creating solidarity through their leadership roles as co-captains. Hernandez conveys to her teammates that anything is possible through hard work and dedication.
“I told them that they should run with their hearts in every race,” said Hernandez.
The two seniors have also reduced the stress level of their teammates with some sage words of advice. The less experienced runners on the roster are often in awe at the speed of some of the opposing teams members.
“I tell them, ‘You just have to run,”said Manriquez. “If you’re working at it, making the effort, that’s what matters.”
Manriquez, one of the smaller members on the team, makes up for her diminutive stature with the size of her heart.
“You can be short or you can be tall, but it’s going to be about you,” said Manriquez. “If somebody is short, that’s not a disadvantage, you can still outrun somebody’s who’s really tall.”
It was the Lady Bulldogs late coach Keith Carlton, who first suggested to Manriquez that it was an advantage that she was short, primarily because she had a lower center of gravity than the taller runners.
However, communication plays a critical role in the team’s success, with the scorers, the team’s top five runners, all working toward a common objective, achieving personal records while recording the lowest possible time for DeSoto County. Everyone on the roster encourages one another, said Hernandez.
“We motivate each other to keep moving forward,” said Hernandez. “We keep pushing each other. I think that’s really important. It doesn’t really matter what place you come in, but that you work hard as a team.”