Trackster Oliver Feels The Bronco Love

By: Michelle Schmitt

"The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."
                                   -- John Wooden

After Santa Clara senior trackster Kevin Oliver finished 17th in the 10,000m Thursday night at the NCAA West Region Championship, he was quick to pay homage to his Bronco teammates back on the Mission Campus and the three who came to Austin to see him run: Haley Ney, Marcos Hinojosa and Adrian Hinojosa as well as his coaches, Bronco head coach Felipe Montoro and assistant coach Peter Cushman. It's easy to understand why.

Oliver, who carries a 3.97 GPA as a double major in Political Science and Economics, was thrilled when three of his teammates took the red eye Wednesday night to be at the University of Texas track to cheer him on.  "I was so happy Hayley, Adrian and Marcos came! A bunch of my teammates got together back in Santa Clara and watched the live stream. I received so many good luck texts and Facebook messages – we have such a great support system on our team," said Oliver.

Ney said the decision for her and the two Hinojosa brothers, Adrian and Marcos, to take the redeye to Austin to be with Oliver on his big night was an easy one made after he qualified. "As soon as he got word he made the NCAA meet we bought the tickets," said Ney. "We didn't sleep a wink on the redeye (which landed at 5 am). We went to a breakfast place for awhile and hung out until Oli woke up."

Marcos Hinojosa, Oliver's roommate the last three years, shouted words of encouragement pre-race as Oliver was receiving instructions from the race officials. "He kind of turned and shrugged as to say 'I have no idea what's going on'. It made me laugh – it wasn't typical Oli before a race. Normally he is kind of tense, but he wasn't."

Ney said the support Oliver provides both as a teammates and a friend made it all more worthwhile. "Kevin is the most supportive person on the team and we thought this would mean a lot to him," she added. "Making the NCAA meet is such a rare thing for us at Santa Clara and we didn't want to miss the opportunity to see him run. It was so much fun watching him race! We were right down on the rail cheering so he definitely could hear all of our thoughts mid-race."

As Oliver started to move from about 40th place early in the race up to the top-20, the trio of Bronco teammates grew more and more excited. "Knowing what Oli was going through and knowing how hard he was focusing, I picked my moments to yell the place he was in and also to yell encouragement," said Marcos Hinojosa. "Watching him race in person was amazing. It just left me speechless at the time, saying 'Wow!'"

The Bronco teammates who stayed back on the Mission Campus got together at Oliver's house to watch the race as well and were also cheering hard. "Oli is just the most fun and excitable guy," said Ney. "He's one of my closest friends and I wouldn't have missed this one for the world. The race was the best of the best nationally and it was so fun to watch him compete one last time as a Bronco!" 

Marcos Hinojosa said going in they all knew there wasn't much of a chance he would advance to Oregon. "But when the gun went off, you could just tell he had a shot – even if it was a small shot – he had a shot. That's what racing is all about – having a chance to surprise some people and he surely did that for us."

"It was really fun to watch him in the biggest race of his life," said Adrian Hinojosa. "We kept yelling at him to turn left and he did!"

Oliver was excited about his finish and knew he was in the top-20 as the race wore on. "The coaches and my teammates in the stands did a great job of letting me know where I was and yelling splits. Running here was a dream come true and I know I couldn't have done it without the support of all my teammates throughout the last four years. They have really been on my side - it is such a blessing. It has been great." 

"If there's one thing I've learned from Kevin Oliver this year it's if ya look good, ya feel good and he looked good last night," added Adrian Hinojosa.

It made running those 100 miles each week all worth it.