A Magazine from California State University, ChicoSpring 2016 Issue

A Chance and Some Support

A Chance and Some Support

“All he wanted was the opportunity and to have the chance to make our team, so I created a spot for him.

Cisneros placed 15th at the CCAA Championships as a freshman, eighth as a sophomore, and second as a junior and senior, earning All-Conference four times. He also finished second at the West Regional Championships as a junior and sixth as a senior.

Cisneros placed 15th at the CCAA Championships as a freshman, eighth as a sophomore, and second as a junior and senior, earning All-Conference four times. He also finished second at the West Regional Championships as a junior and sixth as a senior.

Alfonso Cisneros’ story reads like a Hollywood script. But his is a true story.

Growing up in the small Central Valley farming community of McFarland, he dreamed of being the first in his family to attend college. He dreamed of running for a prestigious collegiate distance program.

All too often, dreams like his don’t come true for kids in small farm towns.

Cisneros (BA, History, ’14) was no ordinary kid. And McFarland is no ordinary town. Jim White—no ordinary coach—is one reason why.

McFarland recently garnered national attention with the release of the Walt Disney Pictures movie, McFarland, USA. The film depicts the story of White and his efforts to inspire a group of boys through the sport of cross country.

They needed the inspiration.

Often in McFarland, children work side-by-side with their parents in the fields, enduring blazing heat for far too long, day after day, for wages far too low.

Despite the adversity, White started a dynasty, leading the team to nine state titles, 15 section championships, and 22 league titles before retiring.

But Cisneros is the star of this story.

When visiting Chico State for the first time through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Cisneros stopped by Head Coach Gary Towne’s office to talk about his chances of being a part of the team even though his times were not quite fast enough.

“One random day in summer I get a knock on the door and he wins me over,” Towne said. “All he wanted was the opportunity and to have the chance to make our team, so I created a spot for him.” 

Cisneros took his opportunity and ran with it. He not only made the team but played an integral role in the Wildcats’ distance running domination for four years. 

He placed 15th at the CCAA Championships as a freshman, eighth as a sophomore, and second as a junior and senior, earning All-Conference four times. He also finished second at the West Regional Championships as a junior and sixth as a senior.

Today, he is continuing his education at Chico State in the single-subject bilingual credential program for history and English language development. He also is considering getting another certification in either Spanish or physical education.

Cisneros hopes to become a middle school or high school teacher, one day get his master’s degree, and eventually coach at the collegiate level.

Towne has had the opportunity to share Cisneros’ story directly with coach White himself. While at a retirement party near Lake Tahoe, Towne recognized White and introduced himself.

“He was very aware of Alfonso and his being up here,” Towne said. “Being able to catch up and letting him know the impact he had on those kids was special. Alfonso came out of that program and really exceeded all expectations.”

While Cisneros’ journey was not the easiest, he is grateful for the opportunities and support he was given, which he knows not everyone is lucky enough to receive, he said.

“All I needed was a chance and some support,” Cisneros said. “And I got it.”

Emily Duran served as a Sports Information intern in 201415. This story originally appeared on Chico State Athletics’ website, chicowildcats.com.