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Cross Country

Chasing the Dream: The Journey Of Sam Pimentel


Despite an uncertain future, Cal State Fullerton junior Sam Pimentel is motivated to run forward and achieve his dreams.

“It’s beauty in the struggle.”

 - J. Cole

Struggle is something that everyone has to face in their life but beneath the surface of struggle, there is always beauty yearning to break free.

Cal State Fullerton junior Sam Pimentel seemingly hasn’t had to face much struggle on the cross country trails. So far this season, Pimentel has two top 10 finishes including a first place showing at the season-opening Mark Covert Invitational. He’s been one of the top runners for one of the most improved squads in the Big West, resulting in a regional ranking for the first time in recent memory.

The way Pimentel runs you’d think that he’s a natural but as a matter of fact, he didn’t even start running until his sophomore year of high school. Soccer was his first love but it was a friend in his geometry class at Katella High School that persuaded him to try out for the team.

As a kid who liked running, he decided to give it a chance. Pimentel made the team after summer training but his ascension did not come overnight.

“I wasn’t that good until my senior year and even then I was only good in my league. We weren’t bad, but we weren’t the greatest either,” Pimentel said.

Despite some success during his senior year, running at the collegiate level was actually not on Pimentel’s mind. He had already been accepted into Cal State Fullerton and was ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.

“My coach ran under Coach Elders and she reached out to him. I wasn’t even on his radar so I reached out to him myself as well and met with him," he remembered.

Coach Elders was honest about Pimentel’s chances, telling him that he didn’t think his times would get him on the team but he would let him try out. After checking out the times of the Titan runners, Pimentel was initially worried that they would leave him in the proverbial dust.

“I had a month before the tryout and I wasn’t even running before then. But I was thinking what do I have to lose? I gave it my all,” Pimentel said.

Thanks to his attitude and some encouragement from the Fullerton staff, Pimentel made the team and hasn’t looked back. He hopes to lead the team to a top half finish at the Big West meet and hopes to make Nationals before he graduates.

But it hasn’t been easy reaching this level for Sam. In fact, struggle has been a constant theme in his life…even if those around him can’t see it on the surface.

“No one ever sees my struggles. Only my siblings and I know what I’ve gone through. People don’t see the other side of me,” he said.

Pimentel was born in Mexico, the second-oldest of four children. When he was young his parents separated and the four children along with his mother Benita had to adjust to a new life. It wasn’t easy for the family…mom had to work constantly to support the kids but Sam always felt love and never felt neglected.

“Growing up I saw my mom struggle a lot and I had to take it in…she put herself out there for us and worked really hard,” Pimentel said.

The family’s journey to the United States brought them to Anaheim and also delivered a new title to Pimentel…Dreamer. He is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His motivation comes from the doubts that people may have about him to succeed.

“Being a minority, it’s hard to see people like me and be a positive image for other people like me,” he said

Pimentel is realistic. He knows that there are many out there that have it worse than he does. Ultimately what he shares with them is an uncertain future. Something he acknowledges as a sobering reality.

“I would love for my family to have money, be comfortable and for me to be successful. But I also don’t know what may happen to me and us in two years. I could be chasing a dream that isn’t possible anymore,” he lamented.

With everything going on around him, you couldn’t blame Pimentel to succumb to the fear of the struggle. The beauty of him is that he uses that fear as a motivating tool to control the things around him that he can and to show others to do the same.

“I’m going to prove this guy wrong that is against me and my people…show everyone that we can do it and we are not bad people…that we are here to succeed,” said Pimentel, who finished eighth overall in his most recent outing at the Highlander Invitational.

Pimentel still believes in the dream of upward mobility. He yearns to make a better life for his family and himself, while believing in the value of hard work that his mother instilled in him. He is fearful but hopeful. He struggles but he shines. If he is the one to show people it’s possible to be something greater, he is willing to put that burden on his young shoulders.

“Growing up I’ve always seen myself as an outsider due to my status. I have figured out I am not alone…we are in this together. You are not alone."