For The Madera Tribune
Madera South’s Luis Ortega signs a National Letter of Intent to run cross country at track next season at Fresno Pacific University.
Stallions XC runner joining sister with Sunbirds
Madera South cross country runner Luis Ortega took advantage of running his best meets at the right time to pique the interest of college coaches and found a place to run next season.
Ortega signed a national Letter of Intent last week to Fresno Pacific University, joining former teammate Seth Garcia and sister Veronica Ortega, who are both runners for the Sunbirds.
“I think my parents were more excited about me going to Fresno Pacific,” he said. “They are pretty excited we’re going to the same college and stay together. They tease me that I’m following her. They have a pretty good program that is growing. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Ortega was also looking at Holy Names, UC Merced and CSU Stanislaus, all schools with Madera ties.
“I didn’t want to go out of state,” he said.
Ortega led the Stallions with a third place finish in the County/Metro Athletic Conference championships. A week later, he placed 23rd in the Div. I Central Section championship race.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure where to go,” he said. “I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know where to go. I just focused on running. When CMAC and Valley popped up, I gave it my all. I contacted the (FPU) coach and said I was interested in going there. He got back to me after the race. We were talking about times. He told me to keep putting in the work and we’ll see by track season. He gave me a goal for track season. But, track got canceled so what was going to happen now. He gave me the benefit of the doubt and gave me a scholarship to see what I can do.”
Ortega keeps the legacy going for the Stallions cross country team. Not only does the team have a reputation of getting runners to college, but also it has a nice pipeline to FPU.
Former Stallions Jonnie Montano recently graduated from FPU with honors. Head coach Benny Madrigal is also a former FPU graduate.
“Being a former Sunbird, Luis going there makes me very excited,” Madrigal said. “Especially with what his sister is doing there. He is very selfless and does what is right. He has the determination to be successful. I’m excited to see his accomplishments as a student and an athlete.
“We’re excited to have a school that keeps looking at our athletes. Having had several students be successful there is great. They keep their faith in our athletes. Luis is an all-star already. He will continue to improve so we can continue to send athletes there.”
Ortega is proud to keep that legacy going.
“The past couple of years have been a dry spell,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that, even though we’ve been in a slump, we still have athletes pursuing running and continuing in the next level. There’s just so much history with Madera South running. You can expect to go to college and run if you want to. It’s cool that you have that option.”
Ortega plans to major in software engineering after compiling a 3.5 grade point average at Madera South.
“I’m not sure what to do with that,” he said. “As more time passes, we’re turning to a digital world so it would be good to have the background and knowledge about what it is and what it can do. I’m taking a video design class. It was cool coding.”
Ortega said he picked FPU because he knows they will be able to help him if he has any problems or questions in the classroom. Also, he knows he has people close to him that will also lead him in the right direction.
“I liked the help they will give,” he said “They were talking to me about the professor to student ratio which is like 20-to-1. I will have opportunity to get help. That made me really decide because I knew I would get the help I needed. I’ve talked to Seth. I took a campus visit and he was my tour guide so I asked him a few questions.
“It’s mainly having a familiar face. It’s going to pretty exhausting getting used to everything the first year. Having a familiar face to help get used to it. She (Veronica) is one I can ask for help and guidance. Having those people around to ask questions will be a big help.”
Ortega signed his letter of intent in a private ceremony with his family present, but it didn’t dissuade how special the signing was.
“It was pretty cool to sign,” he said. “A part of me was I can’t believe I’m doing this and another part was, dang, I can’t believe I’m doing this. My family was there, but that was all that matters to me.”
However, Ortega will have a big supporter with him at FPU — his sister, who has had a successful career, including helping the Sunbirds win the conference championship last year.
“Veronica was neutral about me going to FPU,” he said. “She wasn’t saying don’t come here. Sometimes we go out and run together. It depends on the workouts we get. If we’re doing the same thing, we’ll go out and run together. But, most of the time, it’s different. It’s a little bit of both of who pushes how. Every time we run, we say we’re going slow, but we end up going fast.”