Escondido, CA

Esco’s top runner proves the importance of mind over matter

Unstoppable, determined, AND easygoing? Escondido High School’s Dionicio (Dennis) Miguel is all of the above. Star athlete and captain of EHS’s Cross Country team, Miguel repeatedly refuses to let anything get in the way of his success, including himself. After numerous injuries along with a physique he describes as “not built for running,” this young Cougar remains not only dedicated but also extremely optimistic. Continuing this expectation for greatness, he strives to lead his teammates to achieve their highest potentials as well. Constantly breaking records and improving his personal best times, Miguel sets the example for his team to strive for greatness.

Running competitively since sixth grade, Miguel joined EHS’s Cross Country team his freshman year. Despite injuries almost every year, he has earned his spot as the team’s “number one runner,” in the words of Assistant Coach Brady Clay. Miguel holds multiple school records, the most recent being his incredible time of 16:58.8 at Dana Hills Nike Invitational’s 3-mile run for Division II seniors. When asked about how he prepares for the stress of a race, he explains, “I try to stay relaxed and not over-think.”

Miguel has excellent control over his performances during meets, explaining that while, “there’re people taller, I’m definitely hardworking and I train hard.” He has a system for calming nerves that clearly proves to be successful. “I listen to music and I repeat phrases to myself like ‘You’re gonna do great, you’re gonna be fine.” Coach Mark Vavra describes it as “mental toughness” and elaborates that Miguel is “very competitive; he’s our best runner.” Using his optimism as an advantage, Miguel is able to overcome the stress of competition and instead embrace the pressure as a focusing tool.

This Cougar not only works on improving his own abilities, he is also “a great role model and has great leadership skills,” boasts Clay. It’s clear from just a few seconds of being around this team, that they greatly admire their captain. Miguel is equally enthralled with his teammates, exclaiming, “We have a really solid team! They’re all hard working, it’s a friendly environment and just a great team overall.” Always smiling, he adds “everyone is here to have fun…which is ironic since most people don’t think of running as fun.”

His positive personality is part of what makes him such a great captain. Vavra explains, “he leads by example and works extra hard while keeping it light and fun.” Miguel manages to push himself and his teammates without creating an atmosphere of overwhelming pressure.

In addition to his ability to combine a lighthearted aura with a driven attitude, Miguel has overcome quite a lengthy list of unexpected physical roadblocks. Admitting his need to “work on preventing injuries” he ticks off a list of several that could potentially limit his performances. “I’ve had stress fractures, shin splints for three years, and both of my knees have been having problems since summer.” The latter has been especially upsetting “since this is senior year.” While these injuries would at least slow down most runners, if not cause them to quit altogether, Miguel has only continued to improve. Not only does he hold a school record, he has also more recently set a personal record of 10:58 during a 2.15-mile race at Vaquero Stampede.

“He’s tough and he keeps things moving,” sums up Vavra. This amazing time earned him the eighth spot out of a staggering 112 runners. Miguel simply refuses to be discouraged. His injuries seem only to drive him forward and inspire in him more determination to improve.

Fortunately for colleges, he’s looking to continue his running career post high school. Ultimately, “I’d like to compete in a DI or DII NCAA school,” he explains, clearly looking to overcome his injuries at the collegiate level as well. More specifically, he’s looking to attend Cal State San Marcos. “They have a really solid team that I’d love to be a part of,” he says. For Miguel it’s all about determination and a team that is able to rally and bring a positive aspect to their meets. Hopefully he won’t have to experience any more injuries before then, but either way his speed is sure to increase and prove to be an asset wherever he attends next fall.

It’s glaringly apparent that there is no way to keep Miguel from achieving his highest potential. Be it injuries, a shorter build, or nerves, this runner will not stop bettering his time and uplifting his teammates. There’s just no way to slow him down!

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