Marquette Cross-Country: Freshman Andres Tineo-Paz’s Long Journey Off the Track

Tineo-Paz (left) has come a long way from Venezuela to compete for the cross country team.

When redshirt freshman D.T. McDonald was a senior at Oshkosh Lourdes High School, he was crowned the state champion in the 1,600-meter run in 2011.

But the victory did not come easy. He had to out-kick a junior by the name of Andres Tineo-Paz in the final stretch. As they stood next to each other on the podium, little did they know they would be teammates at Marquette in two years.

Off the track, Tineo-Paz is a hard worker. The summer before his freshman year of high school, he immigrated to the United States from Venezuela and ended up in Racine when his mother took a job with S.C. Johnson.

As his first day of classes at The Prairie School approached, he realized he was going to a school with very few Spanish speakers, and he knew no English.

“The first couple months, I didn’t talk so much. I would just listen,” Tineo-Paz said. “After four months, you start to pick it up. After a year, I was fine.”

Back in Caracas, Tineo-Paz swam and played tennis, but when he moved to Racine, his high school didn’t have a pool, so he played soccer.

Tineo-Paz had no idea what cross-country was until he was approached by someone who saw him working out on the treadmill consistently.

He decided to give the new sport a shot his sophomore year. Although he arrived to the first practice out of shape, he dedicated himself, and the team finished runner-up at the state cross-country championship.

“I remember running five miles and thinking, ‘This is horrible. How can somebody do this for a sport?’” Tineo-Paz said. “I came into the season with chubby legs. I wasn’t chubby, but I just didn’t have the body of a runner.”

Tineo-Paz grew to enjoy the sport and started sending emails out expressing interest in running at Division III colleges.

He was hesitant emailing Marquette because of its reputation of being a tough school in the Big East. However, Coach Mike Nelson responded to his email promptly, and after an official visit, Tineo-Paz’s mind was set.

During the last two years of high school training, Tineo-Paz had to workout separately since he was the fastest runner on his team.

But the running community at Marquette is much closer than his high school team. Freshman teammate Patrick Campbell is his roommate, and the two share memories of friendly competition.

“Everyone knew that he was a great runner in high school,” Campbell said. “Junior year in high school, I beat him in the race we were both in. Senior year he beat me by a pretty good margin. We’ve gone back and forth now.”

During a race, Tineo-Paz’s tenacity and fluid stride reminded Nelson of Marquette’s most recent graduate and top runner Blake Johnson.

Tineo-Paz and Johnson were both the top freshman finishers in their first race. At the 2012 Alumni Run, Tineo-Paz remained close to Johnson throughout the race.

“(Johnson) was very smooth as a runner. He had perfect form, which was just flawless. (Tineo-Paz) is also pretty smooth,” Nelson said. “I think there are some similarities there. If  he can have a similar career to Johnson’s that would be great.”

Johnson finished 55th at the Big East Championship as a freshman. Tineo-Paz has made it his personal goal to be at the starting line for the conference championship in New York.