Graduate, Athlete, Overcomer

Kike is a college graduate, a professional athlete, and qualified for the World Duathlon Championships held in Spain this year. He stands atop countless podiums with medals around his neck and trophies in his hand. Crowds cheer him on and other athletes ask him how he does it. They have no idea just how incredible his story really is-  the story of a boy who had more energy and emotional pain than he knew how to manage. 

At 15-years old, he climbed trees, played soccer all day, ran laps around the Back2Back Hope Program Campus, and still had energy to, in his words, annoy the other boys in the house.” He had been reluctant to even join the Hope Education Program. School was never something he enjoyed, so why should he take the spot of a kid who really wanted to study? It was former Back2Back Staff member, Oscar Hernandez, who changed his mind. Oscar began to paint a picture of a life at Back2Back that wasn’t just about school and grades, but about finding his purpose and learning he didn’t have to do it alone. 

“Your problems are now my problems, and together we are going to solve them,” Oscar told Kike. 

The first thing to solve was managing all of his energy. Together, they researched athletic opportunities and eventually settled on rowing, a new sport to Kike. He loved it immediately, but his daily training routine still didn’t exhaust his boundless energy. So, in addition to an hour and a half practice each day, Kike ran the nine miles each way to where his team trained. When he arrived home each night, he was calm and able to connect. 

When asked how getting involved with sports changed his life, Kike said, “As a teenager, I had a lot of energy and a lot of negative thoughts about what had happened to me. Sports gave me a new focus and a healthy place for my energy. I started sports as therapy, and ended up making it my lifestyle.” 

Kike and his house parents solved the problems he believed he would face alone, including choosing a college major.  Taking into account his natural athletic and coaching ability, they found a program called Athletics and Coaching. Kike maintained a full training schedule, job, and academic workload, while studying a subject he was passionate about. 

Then an advertisement caught his attention: a race combining three sports into one. With no official training in running, swimming, or biking, Kike  entered his first triathlon. The day before the race, he and his house parents solved a new problem together – his lack of equipment. His Back2Back community rallied together to find the necessary race gear with less than 24 hours to the start of his first race.

Kike took off with the starting gun, outpacing other athletes who had been training for years, coming in second place. 

He was approached by the coach of a local professional team after the race, “Where did you train? And why have I never seen you at races before today?” 

Kike replied, “It’s my first race . . . and I’ve only trained in rowing.” The coach immediately offered Kike a spot on his team. 

Today, Kike spends his days training as a professional athlete and his evenings training kids in low-income neighborhoods. I want them to see an example of someone who overcame a circumstance like theirs,” Kike shared.

Kike is an overcomer, and now knows he doesn’t face challenges alone. The support and his drive to set new goals for himself and achieve them, found him at the World Duathlon Championship this November in Spain. Kike placed 7th overall in his category and was the first Mexican participant to cross the finish line! His Back2Back community rallied around him for the World Championship, finding corporate sponsors, navigating passport processes, and as always – cheering him on.