Joseluis Rincon discovered how to cope: ‘Running was my therapy’

More than 40 years ago, one of my first reporting assignments was to cover the land of the City Section at Pierce College. It was, and still is, the quintessential high school sport: teenagers compete with their friends as they try to challenge themselves in a 3-mile endurance test to reach the finish line and feel like they’ve accomplished something .

My annual visit to the City Section Prelims last weekend on a cool, cloudless morning was another reminder that the days of high school sports, before Twitter, transfers, personal coaches and parents infatuated with winning, still live on. It’s like time has frozen as athletes and coaches focus on learning life lessons.

Joseluis Rincon, a 17-year-old senior at North Hills Monroe High, was dressed as if he were visiting Alaska in a heavy jacket, gloves and two hoodies.

He couldn’t play for Monroe because he was designated as a substitute but was there to cheer on his teammates.

It turns out he showed up with his friends for training in Monroe three years ago, the summer before his freshman year. He had never run before. Coach Leo Hernandez welcomed him with open arms.

“I remember throwing up that day,” Rincon said.

And he came back for more. Again and again.

“I wasn’t disciplined and motivated as a student until I reached high school and met Coach Hernandez,” Rincon said. “I’ve learned what a healthy running community can do for me. I didn’t want to turn to a bad outlet like using drugs. This is how I dealt with my depression.”

Lost before high school, Rincon was still upset that his parents split up when he was 6 years old. He lived with his mother in a one-bedroom apartment in Panorama City.

“Overcoming the separation of my parents was my greatest challenge,” he wrote in an essay. “I was depressed and had trouble concentrating in school. I couldn’t take it day by day with my education and family. The biggest problem was worrying about doing my homework and getting good grades at the same time.

“Psychologically, I couldn’t reconcile my life at home with my life at school. I felt like I was being pulled off a wrecking ball which was the pressure of responsibility I had as a kid. Since my mother had two jobs, my responsibility at home was doubled. I had trouble concentrating on myself. I couldn’t get interested in anything, which gave me little or no motivation at school. Since I didn’t have an outlet, the problems were more challenging.

“Running was my therapy.”

Three years later, Rincon has a 4.0 GPA, runs six miles a day, and dreams of attending UCLA and becoming a doctor.

Hernandez, in his 27th year as a cross-country coach, stated, “I like to see results like this. They try to bring out the best in children and help them achieve goals they never thought they could achieve with running. And that opens their mind to be able to get better in life. It’s about improving as a person, setting goals one at a time to be successful.”

Running has taught Rincon that “everything didn’t seem so difficult”.

He wrote: “I’ve found something to look forward to every day. The balance in my life began to form and with it my motivation for school. I was in a healthy community where I could fulfill my potential. I started doing my homework with ease, which gave me more freedom at school. I had the opportunity to get more involved in my classes, clubs and sports teams. I overcame my depression with a healthy outlet. Now I have my eyes set on becoming a doctor, which I have never been able to aspire to in the past.”

The magic of the high school sports experience still exists. You only have to attend a City Section cross-country meeting to feel, see and hear it. The city finals will be held at Pierce College on Saturday morning. Joseluis Rincon discovered how to cope: ‘Running was my therapy’

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