Having just graduated from Santa Maria High School, Nancy Juarez worked in the strawberry fields each day this summer to earn money for college before she left for Cal State Stanislaus.
Then, "She would run eight or nine miles a day to get ready for college cross country," said Santa Maria athletic director Brian Wallace.
It is that kind of work ethic, Wallace said, that helped Juarez earn a partial athletic scholarship to run for NCAA Division II Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.
Since Cal State Stanislaus is a Division II school, it cannot offer full athletic scholarships.
"Nancy never missed a workout when she was here," said Wallace, who will coach Santa Maria's cross country teams this year. Before she left for college, Juarez assisted with the 2017 Santa Maria cross country program after she graduated.
The two spoke recently about what led to Juarez ending up at Cal State Stanislaus.
"It's a pretty school," said Juarez. "I met the coach and the girls, and I thought they were nice.
"I'm both nervous and excited," about starting college at Cal State Stanislaus, she said.
Wallace said Turlock, a Central Valley community that has a listed population of 72,000-plus "is a city that's a lot like Santa Maria," and that helped lead to Juarez's decision to go there.
Besides, "She can start running varsity there the first day," said Wallace.
"Nancy is our first scholarship athlete since 2012. She will be the first in her family to go to college."
Juarez won the Los Padres League 1,600 meters championship as a senior. "Her 1,600 time is the reason she got the calls from Cal State Stanislaus," said Wallace.
"Her best 1,600 time is 5:14. She was a 5:30 girl last year, which is pretty fast."
As her senior year went along, "I came to really like the 1,600," said Juarez. She won the league championship in the last few meters.
She qualified for the CIF Southern Sectional divisional preliminaries in cross country and track her junior and senior high school seasons. She was a double qualifier in track, in the 1,600 and 3,200, her senior year.
Wallace said Juarez holds Santa Maria girls school records in cross country, and all three track distance races; the 800, the 1,600 and the 3,200.
"She asked to run with the boys two years ago, and we said, 'OK," said Wallace.
"Last year she started beating boys. From where she started, she would try to get to the next group. She got to where she was as fast as the JV boys."
Wallace said, "If it was up to Nancy, she'd go all out all the time."
Juarez said she talked to Division I Sacramento State and Fresno State but, "They didn't offer any financial aid."
"Their loss," said Wallace. "Stanislaus had a better team than Sacramento State and Fresno State did last year."
Stanislaus State's cross country result in its conference championship was superior, anyway. The Sacramento State women finished second at the Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Cal State Stanislaus and Fresno State women each finished third in their respective outdoor track and field championships.
Fresno State competes in the Mountain West Conference.
Juarez said she will major in child development at Cal State Stanislaus for now. "I might change (my major) later," she said.