By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
"Look at that little girl - just watch her run."
Alissa Gonzalez isn't that concerned about what other people say when they see her run.
"Most girls are a lot taller than me and back then, people would always say something about it," says the 5-foot Gatesville junior, who admits she stopped growing in the seventh grade. "But since I've lived here all my life, it's kind of something that they're used to now.
"So they look at me (now) and they're like, 'Just watch her run - she'll do something.'"
She's done plenty.
Gonzalez finished second in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the District 19-3A meet on April 7 and 11, advancing to the Region III-3A meet beginning Monday at Humble's Turner Stadium. She set a personal best in the 1,600 and is edging ever so closer to the school records Gonzalez hopes to break before she graduates.
"She's just tough," Gatesville girls track coach Katy Kelley said. "Everything she does - whatever athletic event she's doing, she'd going to do it to the full extent. She might not even like it, but she's going to push herself until she can't get anything else out of her."
Gonzalez's 12:21 in the 3,200 is two seconds away from the school record, while her 5:41 in the 1,600 is 10 seconds off the mark.
"I can taste it," she says.
But Gonzalez is a regular at regionals - at least on the track - having advanced every year in high school.
The volleyball letterman and next year's cheerleading captain tried cross country for the first time last fall after coaches kept asking her to give it a try.
"In junior high, I was a sprinter," said Gonzalez, who eventually worked her way to the 1,600 and 1,600 relay by the eighth grade. "So because it was long distance, I didn't know if I could do it."
Gonzalez was the 19-3A runner up, only to run a minute faster at the Region III-3A meet a week later. She ended the season at the state meet.
"She's just an extremely competitive kid - she hates to lose," Gatesville cross country coach Brian Edwards said. "To do what she did for us cross country-wise - along with playing volleyball - to me, was amazing."
The longer distance proved to be relaxing. It also gives Gonzalez more time to do a few other things while running.
"I think about stuff a lot when I run," she said. "I have random trains (of thought) in my head."
During the cross country season, most of Gonzalez's thoughts centered around the ever-popular "Twilight" book and movie series.
"I'm like, 'Oh, we're running through trees. I feel like Bella,'" she said, referring to the lead character. "I like cross country a lot because you're going through things - I enjoy seeing the scenery."
During track, where the scenery is the football field, Gonzalez will sing songs to herself. The singing is in her head though, not out loud.
"People would be like, 'What is she doing?'" Gonzalez joked. "It wouldn't sound like a song."
Then there are the conversations - not in Gonzalez's head - that she'll have, or at least try to, with the other runners or her coaches. It's more frequent during cross country, but not as much on the track with coaches more visible for encouragement and pointers during a race.
"They just think I'm weird, but I can't help it," Gonzalez said. "It's what I do."
Said Kelley: "She talks to me - she'll tell me she's mad at me. But I'll say, 'If you have time to be mad or frustrated and tell me that, then you're not running hard enough.'"
Either way, Gonzalez keeps making believers out of those watching, even though her strides are shorter than others or she has to work that much harder.
"It is something you think about, especially when every day someone has to say something about my height," Gonzalez said. "It just never fails - it's just how things go. So I always just tell people that I'm proud of the way that I am and I'm going to use it.
"If it's something that helps me as motivation, I'll use it."