Talents are usually discovered by not looking for them. For Leslie Romero, her talent for running was discovered unexpectedly.
A Houston native, Romero went to Memorial High School before making the transition to Levelland to compete for the cross country and track teams at South Plains College.
“I started running in middle school,” Romero recalls, “and actually the reason why I started was because I didn’t make any of the other sports teams. Cross country is a no-cut sport, so that’s how I started. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I started noticing I had a talent for running.”
Romero went to a 6A school, which she says helped her experiences as a runner.
“I’ve always had good competition with competing and stuff,” says Romero. “My coach was also a very good coach, so that was nice to have.”
Initially, SPC wasn’t Romero’s first choice for attending college. She planned on going to Stephen F. Austin, but her plans changed.
“My high school was academically challenged, so we had some issues getting me eligible for school,” explains Romero. “My high school coach told me she found another home for me. If I was going to go to a junior college, then South Plains College was the best place to go.”
Romero came to Levelland to visit the campus, and she enjoyed it. She moved and enrolled at SPC in the fall of 2016. She is currently majoring in physical therapy.
“I like to help people,” says Romero. “I’m looking toward more sports physical therapy areas, and I still want to be involved in sports because I understand being an athlete and how you get hurt while being an athlete.”
During her time at SPC, Romero is involved with the cross country and track teams. During track season, she runs the 1,600-meter race and the 3k for indoor track. For outdoor running events, she runs the 1,500-meter race and the steeple chase.
“I haven’t tried the 10k because I’ve been running the steeple, and that’s the first time I’ve tried it out,” explains Romero, “so the coaches and myself are trying to get me used to that.”
During the New Mexico Highlands Cross Country Jam in Las Vegas, N.M, Romero received her first collegiate victory the women’s cross country event.
“After that meet, I’ve been placing second,” says Romero. “It feels good to receive first place. It makes me want to go out there and win another meet. It’s nice to have that boost of confidence.”
Romero explains the more experienced she is with running events, her nerves don’t get to her.
“Honestly, I’ve been running for years, and I don’t get nervous anymore,” says Romero. “For cross country, I don’t get nervous at all actually. I just think in my head I’m about to race. A lot of people ask me, though, what I’m thinking about when I’m about to race, and I think about how fast I’m going and the people in front of me. I think about pacing myself and try to control my pace.”
According to Romero, being the number one girl for cross country is different for her, and it’s not something that she’s used to.
“I feel like it’s definitely something to look forward to,” explains Romero. “You’re not always going to be in that one spot, and people hold themselves back mentally, and then it becomes physically. Once you get out of that mindset, you can do greater things.”
The SPC running teams have different sets of workouts when practicing for their meets. Romero explains they have track workouts and long runs.
“When we do long runs, we run out towards where the cotton fields are,” says Romero. “It’s just a straight gravel road, and it’s 23 miles. We don’t go down that far, but that is where we do our long runs and tempo runs. Usually we have long runner minute runs, and then we have our track workouts.”
Romero plans to graduate next spring and wants to continue her running career.
“I’m actually visiting schools right now, and I’m not leaning towards a specific school yet,” says Romero. “I think where the university is located is a big thing for me, because you know how West Texas is a small-town type area and I’m from Houston. I like the bigger city atmosphere.”
Romero says her time at SPC has been enjoyable. When she leaves, she’s going to miss the people she has met during the semesters the most.
“I’m definitely going to miss the team and the coaches,” explains Romero. “I think SPC has a lot of culture, because the team is from everywhere around the world, and it’s nice coming out here and meeting them. You learn how they live and different things that they do. My roommate is from Papua, New Guinea and I love her. She’s so sweet, and her accent and everything is cool to me. I’m going to miss the people here for sure.”