STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
It wasn’t enough that Marble Falls High School graduate Leonel Manzano made a surprise visit to his alma mater Nov. 6 to run with members of the cross-country teams.
Simply running with the silver medalist of the men’s 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics would have been a treat for most of the students.
But before they took the track, Manzano, a 2004 Marble Falls graduate, pulled back a cover to unveil about 25 pairs of distance running shoes from Hoka One One, one of his sponsors.
The shoe company donated the shoes to the Marble Falls Athletic Booster Club to be distributed to the cross-country teams in Manzano’s name.
The donation was the result of new Marble Falls cross-country coach Chris Schrader noticing some of his runners didn’t have the proper footwear. He talked to individuals who have an interest in helping youngsters develop a love for running. One was a friend of Manzano’s. Next thing Schrader knows, Hoka One One made a donation of footwear to the booster club.
If anyone could relate to the importance of having the correct equipment, it’s Manzano.
Long before he captured nine state titles as a high school runner, the former Texas Longhorn was running in boots in the sixth grade.
But that didn’t stop him from beating every challenge on timed races that former Marble Falls Middle School coach Karen Naumann set. Manzano’s talent, she has always said, was evident to even those who knew very little about competitive running.
Manzano shared more of his background with the runners, then they got the boxes of shoes.
Schrader said Manzano’s story is inspiring to youngsters.
“I think it was very important if they were listening carefully,” he said. “I think the kids — the ones who are focused — understand what he said and could relate.”
Even the coach could see parts of himself in Manzano’s background.
When Schrader began running as a teenager, he wore high-tops, which weren’t ideal for running on cross-country courses in Australia.
“In a couple of days, I had blisters,” the coach said.
An adult gave Schrader a pair of old running shoes and something much more valuable, he said.
“I had someone who believed in me,” he said. “It got me going.”
Schrader said the distance shoes from Hoka One One are designed to last a cross-country season.
He smiled as he recalled how he told his runners that he “had something special” for them two days after the Class 5A state meet concluded, marking the end of the 2018 season.
As he introduced Manzano to the students, Schrader told of the former Mustang’s background and asked how many could relate.
While Schrader wouldn’t answer if the Hoka One One shoes would make the Mustangs as fast as Manzano, he did say he hopes the new footwear would give them one of graduate’s traits.
“I hope it motivates them to train more consistently,” Schrader said. “We want to teach our kids how to work and train. The kids are starting to see the potential and are starting to see their potential.”