Former Longhorn and Olympic track athlete Leonel Manzano did not have the origins of most world-class athletes.
He was born in Monojeras, Mexico, a small town with no electricity or running water. When he was four years old, he moved to Marble Falls, Texas. This weekend, he will give back to the community at the Leo Manzano 5K Classic.
Marble Falls High School will house the event and proceeds will benefit Junior Olympic hopefuls in the greater Central Texas area.
Manzano, along with his friends, started Highland Lake Track Club while they were students. In just six years, the club produced six university scholarship recipients.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to consider running because as a child many people are pushed towards football,” Manzano said. “But there is a lot of potential in track.”
Manzano is appreciative of the opportunities he received and he wants to help other track hopefuls experience their dreams. He also hopes to encourage young people to exercise and live healthy lifestyles.
“The more kids we can encourage to get off the couch and stay healthy and participate, the better,” Manzano said. “This is an opportunity to try something cool. There is a lot of talent in the hill country.”
Although the event is for everyone, Manzano hopes to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“We like tamales and tortillas, but when it comes to exercise its hard for a lot of people to get motivated,” Manzano said. “There is a high rate of obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol in the Hispanic community.”
Running has taken him very far and over the summer he was in Europe competing. He had four personal record times in the 800, the mile and the 1500 meters.
“My love for track and field has taken me places and I want to share that experience with everybody else,” Manzano said. “I don’t see why we can’t have more Olympians.”
His experience at the Olympics was unforgettable and he now runs for Nike.
“The energy at the Olympics was incredible, with the crowd, it was very exciting,” Manzano said. “Seeing it on TV is one thing, being there in person will blow you away. It was a great experience for me.”
He wants all young people to try track because it keeps kids out of trouble, motivated and healthy.
“It has provided me with opportunities and it’s opened doors,” Manzano said. “I think running has really shown me how to really live my life. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work.”