Twin brothers, Emmanuel and Adan Chavez, have been through quite a rough life so far but have managed to stay focused on school and sports. Specifically, the sport of running. The Riverbank High School cross country duo qualified for the State Cross Country Meet, with Adan placing second and Emmanuel placing fifth as individuals at the Section meet earlier this month. They will go on to represent the high school at the Saturday, Nov. 29 meet in Fresno.
But hitting the course at Fresno’s Woodward Park is miles away from where they started.
Their mother passed away after giving birth to the twins due to complications and when they were seven years old, their father passed away. The brothers are currently being raised by their brother Mariano in Riverbank. The past three years the twins were at Santa Rosa High School where they participated in cross country and track.
This is the first year that the boys have been at Riverbank High School and though they originally hesitated in joining the cross country team, both are now glad they did, as they have become part of the Bruin family of runners.
Adan’s love for running started in middle school and he found it to be an outlet for him to deal with the pain and suffering that he was going through.
Emmanuel’s passion for running started a little bit later in high school when the teacher and coaches heard that he could run fast and motivated him to try out. He did not like running at first but then the coach in Santa Rosa gave him more encouragement.
“He said I could be the fastest runner and I imagined it and thought I could do it,” said Emmanuel. “I was top eight for the varsity team in Santa Rosa and my goal was to be top runner first.”
The brothers stopped running for three months when they were transitioning from Santa Rosa to Riverbank, which made them hesitant in trying out for the cross country squad this fall. Coaches Monte Wood and Robbie Searway, however, encouraged them to give it a chance and to believe in themselves, which led them to joining the team at Riverbank High School.
The boys are extremely dedicated to their team and take their workouts seriously with practices at the school and then boxing training on their own time at home.
“So when we used to be over there (Santa Rosa) it was suffering and painful for me but it was the only way I could get in better shape,” said Adan of the routine. “So we still do that here too, we train here and then do boxing.
“I want to have a good career and a better life.”
Emmanuel explained that he struggled with cross country at first but with hard work and perseverance, he was able to get faster and started passing teammates that used to pass him.
“When I moved here it was hard too because it was hot like a desert and over there it was fresh,” added Emmanuel of making the move from Santa Rosa to Riverbank. “You really have to get used to the weather and the workout we do here in the heat makes it hard to breathe.”
Dealing with the loss of their parents and often living in poverty, running has helped them get through the hard times. The boys at one point in their younger years had to sleep with sheep to keep warm and drank milk that was diluted with water to make sure there was enough for everyone.
With coaches that believe in them and believing in themselves they have made strides in their lives for the better and for the cross country team.
To prepare for a race they often do a two mile warm-up and then continue with some stretches as well as a few drills.
“I take every race, I do it like it is my last race,” said Adan. “So I run with everything I’ve got.
“Coach Wood and Coach Robbie helped me a lot by getting me back to my own shape so I really want to tell them thanks. They are like part of my family and they understand really well.”
The brothers made a promise to their father that they would stay on the right path and not do drugs or get into trouble. They have plans to finish high school and do as good as possible due to the language barrier they still face, and hopefully pursue careers as police officers, coaches for track and cross country, or as boxing coaches.
Right now, however, the focus is on putting their best feet forward, representing Riverbank High School in Fresno, putting on the Bruin uniform for the state competition.