Cross Country Runner Earns Top University Honor

She dreams big, works hard and never gives up. She’s been tested, found resilient and is an unqualified success. She’ll inspire and, maybe, in her own way find a cure for something as significant as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

Tabitha Guzman never missed a practice in her four letter-winning seasons on the San Jose State University women’s cross country team, participated in student government as the one-time Director of Students’ Rights and Responsibilities, helped build houses for impoverished families in Mexico and spent the summers of 2005 and 2006 in New York city as a research undergraduate student in chemistry at Rockefeller and Columbia Universities, respectively.

On May 26, in front of an expected crowd of more than 20,000, the San Jose resident will be recognized as one of two “Outstanding Graduating Seniors” at the 2007 San Jose State University commencement ceremony held in Spartan Stadium.

“Coming in my freshman year, I never ever thought any of this would happen. It’s really a dream come true,” says the 5-foot-5 native of Bryan, Texas about her most recent university accolade. “It’s validated my belief that working hard really allows you to obtain so many things.”

Sharply focused on her future, the three-time Western Athletic Conference All-Academic honoree is headed to Yale University where she will embark on a multi-year program to earn Ph.D. in chemistry and enter academia. Her plan is give to her future students as much as she has received from her family, friends, peers, teachers, coaches and anyone else who has turned a once bewildered and unsettled San Jose State freshman into a confident, dynamic and enthusiastic soon-to-be graduate.

HOME SCHOOLED TO STAR RUNNER

The second oldest of Francisco and Vicki Guzman’s five children, both graduates of Texas A&M University, Tabitha uncannily has maneuvered life challenges with the stride of a champion runner. Like her brothers and sisters, her mother home schooled her until she enrolled at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale as a high school junior. Tabitha was a distance runner on the girls’ track team her senior year and set school records in the 800, mile and 2-mile races.

Choosing San Jose State to begin her college education, Tabitha did not have the option to participate in track and field. While she would later run circles around students with her dazzling classroom work, Guzman was bored racing around the track oval. To be a Spartan, she’d have to take up cross country. A little nudging from San Jose State cross country head coach Augie Argabright calmed any fears about running longer distances and racing along a circuit course where her creativity, skill and mental toughness could be challenged simultaneously in athletic competition.

TRAGEDY, CONFLICTS & CHALLENGES

As a first semester freshman in 2002, Guzman was confronted with the deaths of her younger brother, Thomas, from an allergic reaction to an allergy shot in September and her grandmother who succumbed to pancreatic cancer later that year.

“At the time, I tried to cope with it by running trying to distract myself,” she remembers. “When you loved someone, then someone just leaves, you don’t know how to handle it.

“I’m a completely different person than I was my freshman year. The one thing I can hold true to is I really loved my little brother. I always wanted to be sure that the things I’m doing would make him proud.