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More than an athlete: Big gains from a fresh start

Posted: June 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Despite injuries, Hart senior Gerry Granados was a top-notch cross country runner and ran a strong 800-meter race in track and field. Despite injuries, Hart senior Gerry Granados was a top-notch cross country runner and ran a strong 800-meter race in track and field.
Despite injuries, Hart senior Gerry Granados was a top-notch cross country runner and ran a strong 800-meter race in track and field.

Gerry Granados couldn’t help but crack a smile when he thought about his graduation from Hart High School on May 31.

As he waited to walk across the stage at College of the Canyons and receive his diploma, a lot of thoughts raced through his head.

“It was pretty cool,” Granados says with a laugh. “I was so excited and nervous.”

Understandably so, considering what the 18-year-old former Hart cross country and track and field runner had to go through to get there.

Born in Mexico and growing up in a poor farming family, graduating high school was once a far-fetched idea.

It was just five years ago when Granados first came to the United States, feeling out of place and afraid to deal with the cultural and language barriers.

“I didn’t know anything,” Granados says. “Not even, ‘I need food or money’ or anything.”

He was 13 at the time and living with his mom, uncle and little brother in Newhall.

It was the beginning of a new life for his family and him.

It was a life that would result in a successful athletic career at the school, stellar grades and eventually a high school graduation, which was the first in his family.

“He just has the drive and has the heart to do it,” says Hart teammate Sam Peckham. “A lot of guys fall into the bad habits with the wrong kids, but Gerry just didn’t do that.”

Until his arrival in the Santa Clarita Valley, it had been a struggle for Granados while living in a rural area of Michoacán, Mexico.

When Granados was 1 year old, his father, Jose, was murdered, forcing his mom, Bertha Terrazas, to move he, his brothers and sisters to Mexico City.

His mother had trouble providing for her family, so she took an opportunity to move to the U.S. with the help of her brother, Noe, whom she and Granados still live with.

She was unable to bring her son with her, so 9-year-old Granados was left to live with extended family on a corn farm in Michoacán.

For the next four years, Granados tried to attend as much school as he could while he had to help out with work in the fields.

He was a virtual orphan.

“I was just a kid. I didn’t even know what to do, and I had to work and I was like, ‘Well, this is really tough,’” Granados says. “I cried a lot when (my mom) left, but she had to do whatever she had to do to get a better life for us and right now we’re living good.”

Even after leaving Mexico, there were plenty of obstacles to face.

During his first year in Newhall, Granados went straight to work in his uncle’s body shop, and he decided not to attend school.

But that didn’t last long.

Terrazas knew how important it was for her youngest son to pursue his education.

As a child in Mexico, Terrazas’ family couldn’t afford to pay for her schooling and instead had to focus on the farm, she said with her son translating.

So he fulfilled his mother’s wish and enrolled at Placerita Junior High.

That’s where his athletic talent was first discovered.

One of his PE teachers at the school noticed how strong of a runner he was and brought up the idea of running track.
Granados, who barely spoke any English at the time, was reluctant at first.

Coaches and classmates tried to talk him into trying out but at the time, Granados was more passionate about soccer.

Eventually, a few fellow Hart runners, including Peckham, convinced him to join the track and field team late freshman year.

It was a learning experience at first.

“He was one of those guys who always wanted to work so hard and be in the front pack of leaders, whether he was in shape for it or not,” says former Hart track and field head coach Larry David.

As time went by, he learned how to pace himself and trained for the more technical aspects of the sport.

He ran in a few track events toward the end of his freshman season, then joined the cross country the following fall as a sophomore.

Peckham and fellow Hart runner Austin O’Neil had fully taken Granados under their wings by then.

“We all saw him as a talented athlete and someone who could help out the team and just be a nice guy and he had a great work ethic,” Peckham says.

His progress as a runner was slowed by various injuries throughout high school, but he stuck with it, even while working 20 hours a week at a nearby car wash and still learning to speak English.

“Quitting isn’t an option,” Granados would say to himself. “I had the talent to do it, and if I needed something, (my teammates) would help me with anything.”

Eventually, he earned his way to the No. 3 spot on the cross country team (behind Peckham and O’Neil) by his senior year.

He ran the 800-meter for the track team for three years, clocking his best time of 1 minute, 59.53 seconds as a junior for a fourth-place finish in the Foothill League finals.

That, and he graduated with a GPA just below 4.0.

“He’s another one in the line of those kinds of success stories we’ve had that in the past,” David says.

And Granados doesn’t want the story to end here.

He’s been accepted at Los Angeles Valley College, where he plans to attend this coming fall.

As for his intentions to try out for the track team?

Another big smile came across his face.

“Of course,” he says.

Indeed, this story is far from over.



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