By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Piner High School student Luis Luna has left his mark on Sonoma County cross-country and track records, but he plans to make another bit of history soon: To be the first member of his family to go to college.
Luna, who was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and moved to Sonoma County when he was 11, is being recruited to run for the private, four-year University of Portland.
“I want to go to college to be able to help my parents,” he said recently after track practice. “That’s what my family is all about, trying to help out my parents if we can.”
His parents, Yolanda Meza Luna and Esequiel Luna, have modeled hard work for their children. Esequiel works in the fields as a laborer and Yolanda has raised the couple’s 11 children.
“My dad is always giving me advice on life, always telling me to do whatever you can, try your best,” he said. “I respect them a lot. Having both of them help me, it’s taken me the right way instead of doing something that’s not so good.”
Luna capped his Piner cross-country career by capturing seventh at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships West Regional and running in the National Championships, where he placed 30th.
He has the second-best returning time in the nation for the two-mile race and runs a 4:14 mile.
His coach, Luis Rosales, said he has seen Luna grow dramatically since he first met him four years ago — both as a student and an athlete.
“He’s come along way as person,” said Rosales, who is the dean of students at Cardinal Newman High School. “Sports has helped him appreciate school and learn the value of school more than had he never done sports.”
Teacher Judy Barcelon said Luna’s drive has united a school around a sport, “making us feel like we are all a part of his journey.”
“Luis started high school like many do without a firm focus or commitment on academics,” she said.
But success in running and the support of students, staff and coaches, coupled with his own willingness to improve, turned him into a young man “hungry for higher grades” and the drive to be a school leader, Barcelon said.
Luna said he sometimes misses Mexico, where he still has some family. But he said experiences when his family moved here may guide his career path. He is considering becoming a translator.
“The first year or two, it was so hard, having to learn the language,” he said. “I didn’t want to talk, I was embarrassed. I want to help other people learn.”
You can reach Staff WriterLori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birthplace: Guanajuato, Mexico
Lives with: Parents Yolanda Meza Luna and Esequiel Luna, six sisters and four brothers
Favorite hobbies: Running, soccer
Dream job: Translator
Favorite TV show: “Two and a Half Men”
Favorite food: Chinese
Quote: “Don’t just be another runner, but someone who will be remembered.”