Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Allison Mendez has taken an interesting route to get to where she is today. Mendez has transformed herself from a dancer to a cross country contender for the Texas Longhorns.
Mendez joined the Rockwall High School cross country team after her father encouraged her to pursue running. She ran her way to No. 2 on the team and, more importantly, developed a passion for the sport along the way.
Her path to UT is equally unique. She spent her freshman year at Austin Community College before transferring to UT.
"When I went to ACC, I wanted to be in Austin and in the UT environment. That helped me stay motivated to get into UT," Mendez said. "I do think that is a big accomplishment for me being able to keep my grades up and transfer."
Allison's accomplishment of getting in to Texas sparked another goal -- to run cross country for the Longhorns. She walked on as a sophomore and has gradually built up her confidence and reputation as a runner.
After a breakthrough junior season, she is ready to tackle her senior year with heart and confidence.
In 2009 Mendez led Texas to a fifth consecutive first place finish at the Texas State Invitational, winning the individual championship in 17:45. She took home the top spot again at the Incarnate Word Invite with a time of 19:02.5. Mendez posted a 5K career best 17:35.9 and an eighth place finish at the Islander Splash.
Also in 2009 she recorded a 6K career best of 21:36.8 for an 18th place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional. Mendez garnered NCAA South Central All-Region Team accolades by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the first time.
"It was my last race of the cross country season that gave me confidence, and showed me that if I have that mindset, and focus on a goal, I have the heart to do it," Mendez said. "That confidence will transfer over to this season."
Hard work, dedication and persistence are the trademark to Mendez's journey.
"I am still new to running and it is still a learning experience," Mendez said. "I have to stay patient and realize it is going to take baby steps."
Coach Steve Sisson has been helpful to Mendez during this growing process. They arrived at UT the same season, and have developed a special pupil-teacher bond.
"Every season I feel like I have developed, and we have developed together," says Mendez. "We have a (training) system going, and as long as we keep that up I will perform well."
Mendez's journey here at Texas would have been very different if her dad would have not encouraged her to start running. Mendez had been dancing since she was 3 years old and enjoyed it, but found her true passion in the sport of cross country.
Eventually cross country took over her dancing career in high school and Mendez started to focus on cross country and continued to love the sport and now has found herself as a collegiate runner.
Mendez is in the midst of concluding her cross country career here with the Longhorns, but still has a few goals that she would like to reach over the course of her final season at Texas.
"My goal is for these next four races to just run like it is my last race and run with my heart and I feel like since it is my senior year I know I need to do that and I know my heart wants to do it," says Mendez. "Running with my heart is my main goal and to just forget about the pain and run."