Jason Alcala Little Elm

Little Elm senior Jason Alcala is the first male state qualifier in cross country for the Lobos in 21 years.

When Little Elm senior Jason Alcala relives his race at last Monday’s Region I-6A cross country meet, he compared his efforts during a portion of the course to the fictional character Lightning McQueen in the Disney Pixar movie “Cars.”

A line from the movie, “McQueen is fading,” resurfaced in his mind.

“There was a Prosper kid leading in front of me and starting to get away from me,” Alcala said. "In the middle of the meet of the race, I saw a sign that reminded me of my mission. It put me in McQueen's space. I'm not going to go away. I'm not going to fade. I'm going to stay with them."

Not only did Alcala overtake his opponent from Prosper, but he finished in the top 10. He placed ninth overall in a time of 16:01.3, becoming the first male from Little Elm to qualify for the state cross country meet in 21 years.

"I was in such disbelief because there was no way that I thought that I could do it,” he said. “It was so rewarding to me because last year at regionals, I finished 61st. I had a horrible race. It was my drive for this year. I told myself that I'm going to work harder. I know what I'm expecting. The improvement that I made throughout the year showed me that so much is possible."

There was a time leading up to the regional meet when Alcala was unsure of himself. He had run well all season, but two weeks before regionals, he felt a sharp pain in his right calf muscle when he woke up from sleep. Little Elm head coach Kirk Johnson insisted that Alcala not run because it might cause the injury to worsen. But after a week of not running, Alcala was back on his feet and now a state qualifier for the first time.

Alcala said he realized his potential this summer.

Alcala ran for a club track and field team called Team Quest, and through various qualifiers, earned a berth into the AAU Junior National Olympics in the two-mile. He came in seeded 12th. However, he exceeded his personal expectations and went on to capture third place at Turner Stadium in Humble.

"I had a heck of a summer,” Alcala said. “I dropped some massive times. It helped me out for cross country season."

And his final season running high school cross country certainly hasn’t disappointed.

Alcala has broken his own school record three times, including at the Frisco ISD Invitational, where he ran a 15:20.

And this success comes with Alcala balancing athletics, school and work. Not only does he run cross country, but is also a member of the Little Elm tennis and track and field teams. And when he isn’t doing that, he is playing trumpet for the school band, a treasurer for the National Honor Society and volunteers for DECA Inc.

Oh, and he is taking college classes on the side. When he enters college, he will have already accumulated 63 hours and will be a second-semester junior.

"This is kind of how I live my life,” Alcala said. “I'm a very busy person. This is my normal. Some people look at me and ask me, 'How do you do all of it?' I just kept telling them, 'I don't know, I just kind of do it.'"

Colleges are already starting to court Alcala for cross country as well as track and field. He plans to visit Incarnate Word, UT-Arlington and UT-Tyler. The Texas Longhorns are also on his radar. But for Alcala, it isn’t just about running. His career goal is to be a nurse. He said that needs to attend a school in Texas so that the college credits that he has already earned will transfer.

“I want to go into nursing,” he said. “My mom does it. She tells me how she helps people and that is something that I want to do.”

But for now, Alcala has his sights sets on a memorable performance in the Class 6A state cross country meet, set for 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock.

"When it comes to the state meet, I have no certain time,” he said. “It’s my last race. It’s my senior year. I don't want to walk after that race. My goal is to go as hard as I can go. If I throw up in the middle of it, I'm going to keep going."

And if Alcala struggles during any portion of the course, he will draw motivation from the movie “Cars.” Alcala won’t let McQueen fade. And if McQueen starts to fade off, Alcala knows that he has a tremendous support system to keep him focused, including Johnson.

“My coach constantly pushed me and never gave me a day off. If I ever wanted to take a day off he would say, 'No, this is your goal,’” Alcala said. “We're already in the hardest region in Texas. Knowing that, I think that can provide a storybook ending."

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