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Cross country freshman with autism runs in state championships

Jake Santana has been running cross country since he was 16 years old. In his first year in college, he made it to CCCAA State Championship Meet.
KION Taryn Mitchell
Jake Santana has been running cross country since he was 16 years old. In his first year in college, he made it to CCCAA State Championship Meet.

MONTEREY, Calif. (KION) Fresh out of high school, Monterey Peninsula College cross country team has a new star runner making strides on the track.

"He's here every single day working extremely hard," Monterey Peninsula College Track Coach, Nick Cunningham said. "And it's nice to see him rewarded with such good results."

Jake Santana is a freshman at Monterey Peninsula College with a love for running.

"During junior year, I noticed that I could totally rank up in the high place with all the more bigger guys who are on varsity," Santana said.

Santana discovered his passion for track and cross country at just sixteen-years-old at Pacific Grove High School. Now a college athlete, he hasn't let anything, not even autism, stand in the way of achieving his dreams.

"He's the guy that from day one has really just seen this as an opportunity to go out there and show hes able to do."

- Tony Santana, Jake's father

"Every single piece of training I've been using on the track to become the most strongest one in the entire group," Santana said.

The MPC cross country runner placed 77th out of 166 athletes at the CCCAA State Meet in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 20.

"Jake has taught me probably more than most athletes -- just in terms of why put limitations on yourself," MPC track and cross country coach Nick Cunningham said, who's only been working with Jake from the start of the semester. "His whole life, people have probably been telling him you can't do this, you can't do that, and he just got on the track."

"Jake, from day one, has been such an inspiration to all of us letting us know that boundaries are something that we put on ourselves," Jake's father, Tony Santana said. "He's the guy that from day one has really just seen this as an opportunity to go out there and show hes able to do."

The youngest of four, Jake is next in line to graduate like his siblings, and they all have his back. His dream is to be an advocate and a physical education coach.

"It takes a village to do it, but he's doing it," Tony said.

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Melody Waintal

Melody Waintal is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Taryn Mitchell

Taryn Mitchell is a weekend anchor and multimedia journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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