Oct 26, 2015Vol. 46, Issue 2

‘A Chance and Some Support’

Credential student, former Wildcat fulfills dreams at Chico State

Cisneros
Alfonso Cisneros, center, came to Chico State from Disney-famed McFarland, California. He eventually placed second in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championships for two straight years. (Gary Towne)

Credential student 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 from his family to attend college. He dreamed of running for a prestigious collegiate distance program.

But, all too often, dreams like his don’t come true for kids in small Central Valley farm towns.

Cisneros was no ordinary kid. And McFarland is no ordinary town. Jim White—no ordinary coach—is one of the reasons why.

McFarland recently garnered national attention with the release of the Walt Disney 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

Cisneros won the 2012 CCAA Track & Field title in the 10,000 meters.

Cisneros won the 2012 CCAA Track & Field title in the 10,000 meters.

Despite his success on the cross country and track teams at McFarland, he had few collegiate options. With time running out for him to make a decision, he set his sites on making the roster at Chico State.

A former Chico State runner who worked at McFarland recommended Cisneros to Head Coach Gary Towne. When Towne told him his times were simply not fast enough, Cisneros did not waiver. 

He decided to attend Chico State whether he made the team or not. When visiting the campus for the first time through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Cisneros stopped by Towne’s office to talk about his chances of being a part the team.

“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 the last four years. 

He was a member of four straight California Collegiate Athletic Association championship teams on the track and the cross country trails.

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.

(Gary Towne)

(Gary Towne)

Cisneros graduated in May 2014 with a degree in history.

He is currently in the Single-Subject Bilingual Credential Program for History and English Language Development. Although nothing is definite, he 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.

Seeing Cisneros’ evolution firsthand has been rewarding, Towne said.

He even had the opportunity to share Cisneros’ story with coach Jim 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. When you have kids like that fighting pretty tough odds, to succeed and see them have success like they did is pretty cool. 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, that 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 Sports Information intern in 2014–15. This story originally appeared on Chico State’s Athletics website, www.chicowildcats.com.

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