BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On the outskirts of Bakersfield, near Lamont, and surrounded by farms, you'll likely find Alex Cuevas.
It doesn't take long for your eyes to catch the lines etched in the fields and the Ridgeview senior is usually running along his own.
“I kind of felt a connection with it and once I came into high school and I tried it out, a lot of stuff you got to learn to not only be good but to learn from, like, failures and everything that can happen to become a great runner. I’ve always just like running and winning," Cuevas said.
Learning to win wasn't an issue for this cross country competitor.
“In 2016, his freshman year, we had never won a valley championship before and since he’s been here we’ve won three and a state championship, all in a four year period," Ridgeview Cross Country Coach Greg Dabbs said.
“It was something I just never forget, always be proud of being part of any championship we got," Cuevas said.
Dabbs know just how important Alex is to the them.
“Very competitive and determined, you can’t replace someone like Alex," Dabbs said.
But, the team almost had to.
“My mom was driving. I was sitting in the front passenger seat and my little sister was sitting right behind me," Cuevas said.
On August 14, 2017, Alex's sophomore year of high school, he and his family were involved in a serious car accident caused by a red light runner. A memory never too far from his mind.
“I kind of just remember hearing like some loud screeching noise from tires when you slam on the brakes. And kind of after that I’m not too aware of what happened, but I do know that it was a semi truck ended up hitting us on the driver side," Cuevas said. “I had fractured in my left eye socket. And I do know, I had a few small fractures on the back of my skull. My hips were kind of messed up.”
And, then the inevitable question came up while in the hospital room.
"I can remember it pretty clear, you know, talking to the doctor, you know, I'm in cross country. You know, when will I be back? Right when I was told, you may not even be able to run again, it might be too much. I kind of just felt my heart drop in a way because of the strong feelings I feel when I run," Cuevas said.
The accident occurred at the intersection of Panama Rd and Union Ave leaving Alex and his mom, Tomasa, with injuries they'd have to overcome for months.
“It was a really hard process to get back to where I used to be or even as close as I used to be," Cuevas said.
It was the sport he was fighting to return to that ultimately got him through his biggest adversity.
"Everyone kind of has, the way they see things or the way they handle things. I feel like that's honestly really helped me try and get away from all those negative thoughts through the process. And, I mean, it helped me overcome it. So, I'm really thankful for it," Cuevas said.
Grateful for a tragedy that he was able to turn into success as the cross country team would win the school's first-ever state title a year after his return.
"Life is so unpredictable and you can’t control these things, he’s bounced back and adjusted from this, it’s just been a miracle to watch this," Dabbs said.
Alex finished his senior season with another valley championship and of course a few more medals to hang on the walls at home. He'll soon graduate from Ridgeview amid uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic but knowing he has committed to run at U.C. Davis next.
“It means everything to me now that I have another opportunity to continue my running at a bigger level. It’s just a matter of seeing what the future holds for me and hopefully making my family proud," Cuevas said.
He's already brought pride to more than one family.
“He’s been a great role model and leader of our team, he’s part of the pack forever," Dabbs said.
While many thought may run through someone's mind who has been through as much as Alex has at such a young age there's one quote that seems to align his journey.
“God will never take anything away from you, without the intentions of replacing it with something better," Cuevas said.
Possibly a greater appreciation for the sports that gives him life.