HARLINGEN — Pedro Cervantes only ran cross country and track & field for the Harlingen South Hawks for two years, but he certainly made an impact during that limited time.
Cervantes didn’t initially intend to pursue a college career. As he consistently put in the work and got better and better, Cervantes realized bigger things could be in his future.
In December, the senior started reaching out to college coaches. All the miles and hard work came to fruition Wednesday when Cervantes signed to run in both sports for Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark., at the NCAA Division II level.
“It feels pretty good. I never thought I would make it this far,” Cervantes said. “At first I was just running to run, to lose weight. Then I started seeing results and I thought, ‘Hey, I got a chance to do this.’ I started putting more work in, and it paid off. It shows me that if you put your mind to work, it can actually happen. Talent only takes you so far, but work beats talent.”
Cervantes said the recruitment process was “a little difficult,” but once he connected with Southern Arkansas, it was an immediate fit. He’ll be studying physical education and health, and wants to become a cross country coach so he can “give back what I’ve received.”
“Southern Arkansas gave me that chance that no other college gave me. They automatically responded to me, and I felt that need to go there. I felt like they wanted me to be part of their success,” Cervantes said. “I visited the campus in January and … the coaches were very welcoming. Going around the college and campus, people were very nice and welcoming, and that’s what really inspired me to go there.”
Though he only competed for two years, Cervantes quickly racked up mileage as he made a name for himself. He earned six top-10 finishes combined between cross country and the 3,200- and 1,600-meter races in track, including a ninth-place finish at the District 32-6A cross country meet that qualified him for the regional meet, where he finished in the top 50.
South coach Ralph De La Rosa believes Cervantes’ work ethic and the “gas tank” he developed will carry him far. The Hawks coaches challenged the distance runners to run at least one mile for 100 consecutive days, and Cervantes was the only one to meet that. Cervantes said he accumulated 627.87 miles during that stretch.
“What I saw in Pedro immediately was his determination and his ability to work hard,” De La Rosa said. “For him to do what he’s done in a short period of time is a testament to how he’s made up. … He ran 100 days in a row, and he wore me out just telling me the workouts. He never really took a day off and he was able to catch up and surpass (others), and it was, like, ‘Wow.’”
Cervantes said he’s looking forward to new experiences at college and that he’s most likely to compete in the 10K or 5K races for the Muleriders. Just like he reached goals at South, Cervantes wants to reach a goal of running at the NCAA national championship in his next chapter.
“I want to give thanks to my mom and dad. They were always there to wake me up in the mornings when I wanted to sleep in. And to my coaches and teammates,” Cervantes said. “A quote that I stood by was, ‘If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but don’t change the goal.’ That’s what worked out for me, and that’s what I’ll keep doing.”