Kristine Kaneichi couldn’t wait to leave home.
She graduated from Weston Ranch High in 2008 and was set to move in with her brother, Yoshi, in Long Beach with the intention of continuing her career as a distance runner in Southern California.
“Stockton was boring and I wanted some excitement in my life,” she said.
She is missing home these days.
Kaneichi again finds herself adjusting to life away from her family, as she received a partial scholarship to run cross country and track for New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. She moved in last Sunday, and class starts next Monday.
New Mexico Highlands is an NCAA Division-II school that competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
“My time in LA was short-lived,” said Kaneichi, who previously ran for Glendale Community College. “I didn’t want to leave LA, but I can’t stay in community college forever. It’s been pretty emotional leaving friends and family behind, but I gotta grow up some time.”
Kaneichi, an all-Valley Oak League honoree and Sac-Joaquin Section meet qualifier as a senior, considers herself fortunate for the opportunities presented to her after high school.
Ricky Cuevas, an East Union alum and former standout harrier at the collegiate level, encouraged Kaneichi to give it a shot at Glendale, which boasts a powerhouse women’s cross country program. Cuevas is the son of former Weston Ranch head coach Rick Cuevas, who now leads Manteca High’s team.
“I wanted to continue running and I wanted to get faster,” Kaneichi said. “I heard a lot of good things about the school. They have a good reputation, and by training with them I knew was going to get better.”
Glendale took second in the state in 2008, and Kaneichi earned a spot on the starting seven to help the team capture the state championship in 2009. She red-shirted during the 2010 track season, and with her two years of eligibility already up she ran unattached in cross country that same year.
Kaneichi landed the partial scholarship to New Mexico Highlands by chance. A friend contacted her through Facebook, noting that NMHU head coach Bob DeVries had scholarship money available.
“I contacted the coach and this is where I ended up,” Kaneichi said. “I feel very fortunate. I don’t know a lot of people who can say they compete at the collegiate level. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
She is currently the No. 1 runner for the Cowgirls. Kaneichi has impressed her coach enough to have her train with the men’s team. In the spring, she will run the 1,500 and 5,000 and hopes to eventually get on the indoor track team, which would make for a busy schedule for the biology major.
Adjusting to her new surroundings has been a challenge so far. She has to make a new set of friends and acclimate herself to training at a higher elevation.
“I’ve already made lots of friends, my teammates are all real nice and our coach has been a big help,” she said. “It can only get better from here.”
Soon, it will.
Her father, Ken, will visit for NMHU’s first meet, the University of New Mexico Lobo Invitational, on Sept. 3. One day later, Kristine turns 21.
When Kristine was at Glendale Community College, her dad drove down to watch several of her meets.
“Being away from home for that long you realize how much family means to you,” Kaneichi said. “No matter where I’m at my dad is always there for me.”