Friends and family fuel Valle’s athletic, academic success


Author: Stephen Nemeth

She has a deep love for family, friends, faith and running.

It is this love of running that explains why Roxanne Valle (first year), a member of the Occidental women’s cross country team, has made a name for herself as a top contender in the conference during her debut year. Although she continues to run her regular cross country races, she prioritizes her academics, a race in itself that she knows all too well.

Valle pushes her limits in the classroom just as she does whenever she heads out to run. She does this because she is aware that she will not be running competitively forever.

“I knew that I’m not going to be running my entire life,” Valle said. “So I had to choose a school where I knew I would excel academically. So that’s why I looked more toward Oxy than any other school because I felt like I fit in here.”

This dedication to her education has grown out of her parents’ commitment to getting their children through college. They never went to college — her father never graduated high school — but they repeatedly told her that she and her three older siblings would get degrees.

“No matter how much or how hard they are going to work, [my parents] knew that they were going to put each and every one of us through college,” Valle said. “So it’s something like an idea that they have always put in our heads.”

Valle’s two eldest siblings, a brother and a sister, graduated from college in 1999 and 2005, respectively, while her other sister, a year her senior, currently attends University of California, Santa Barbara and will graduate in 2018. Valle sees the studies that she is now pursuing in physics and mathematics as her chance to repay her parents for their efforts.

“I realized I wanted to be able to go to school, maybe just to help them,” she said. “I guess that’s my way of paying them back as well; like getting a good job and being able to just help them. I realized how important it was as I got older.”

Before attending Occidental, Valle lived in Azusa, California for her entire life. She has always been close with her family, according to hometown friend Jeff Baez, a first-year student at University of California, Irvine whom Valle has known since the fourth grade.

“She comes from a family that’s very well-knit together, so they always keep in touch no matter where they go,” Baez said. “They are very supportive as well, no matter what they do and what other people think.”

She has had family members attend every cross country meet this year. In fact, her parents and eldest brother have not missed one.

Her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as teenagers, sought better opportunities and a better life, according to Valle. They set up their family in Azusa, where the friends Valle met and bonded with growing up, like Baez, also motivated her to take control of the opportunities that came her way.

“A lot of us have similar stories,” Valle said. “Our parents are immigrants, they didn’t go to school. So we all share the similar background. We all understand each other’s struggle. That’s definitely also what influences me.”

Valle’s cross country teammates also recognize her internal drive. Perhaps the best example was her performance in the SCIAC Championships Oct. 31 where, despite a fatiguing illness, Valle braved the six kilometer course to place 12 overall and second among first-years in the conference.

Teammate Eva Townsend (sophomore) commended Valle on her performance at Championships.

“There’s not a lot that can mess with her mental game, I think,” Townsend said. “She’s just there to do as best as she can, and I don’t think she gets phased by much, which is super important. It is really mentally tough to go out there and run 3.75 miles as it is. And to do it while you are pretty sick is another story.”

Head Coach Rob Bartlett had a similar view.

“I never really had to talk to her too much about what to do or goals or anything,” he said. “I think she does a really good job already of pushing herself forwards.”

Bartlett also noticed that Valle came into this season already strong. According to Baez, he and Valle have practiced running with friends throughout the summers since their high school years in order to prepare for each upcoming season.

Valle will continue her cross country season when she runs — rested and recovered from her illness — Nov. 14 in the NCAA DIII West Region Cross Country Championships against competitors from 13 states in the Western United States.

Outside of cross country, Valle attends church every weekend and has an interest in potentially becoming involved in the first-generation club on campus.

“As a person who has faith, I definitely think God wanted me here for a reason,” Valle said.

Valle is continuing to develop her niche at college, but in the end her decisions come down to four things: Family, friends, faith and, of course, running.

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