The name on his birth certificate reads Gabriel Moreno, but to his fellow cross country teammates, he is known simply as “Sunshine.” The spunky freshman earned the jovial nickname because of his unrelenting smile.
Just one month into his first season, Moreno has been a revelation for the program. He was named Prairie Fire Performer of the Week two weeks in a row. Moreno earned his first accolade after the Early Bird Invitational Sept. 3 at Western Illinois University, where he placed 18th out of 100 runners. Moreno repeated as Performer of the Week by placing 22nd out of 140 runners in the Midwest Classic at Olivet-Nazarene University on Sept. 10.
Moreno’s athletic accomplishments date back to Galesburg High School, where he competed on the varsity track and cross country teams all four years. Additionally, he was the team’s co-captain during his junior and senior years.
Moreno, who has been running since he was 12 years old, said he fell in love with the sport because it enabled him to lead an active lifestyle.
“It clicked for me,” said Moreno. “I kinda fell in love with it.”
Moreno was raised in Galesburg, and both of his parents met at and graduated from Knox.
“I grew up around Knox,” said Moreno, who in his younger days rebelled against his parents and insisted he would not attend Knox.
But after being accepted to Macalester, Oberlin and Carleton College, Moreno chose Knox. Although he could have run for a Division I cross country team, Moreno could not look past Knox’s strong academic reputation.
Moreno is part of a youth movement on the cross country team. With nine new freshmen, a handful of sophomores and a new coach, the team has a chance to make Knox a contender in the Midwest Conference.
“We’re an up-and-coming team,” said Moreno, who believes the team can compete at the Regional Tournament. “We can be a strong force in the conference.”
In addition to athletics, Moreno is interested in studying art or pre-med, though he is quick to note that his major will likely change a few times. As he settles down at Knox, Moreno would also like to become more active in the school itself. A discussion-based radio station is among his future ventures.
While he’s not really sure what life has in store for him in terms of a career, Moreno is confident that running will always remain an important part of his day-to-day life.
“I don’t live to run, but I want to run for the rest of my life,” he said. “I kinda want to be that 78-year-old guy hobbling down the street still doing what he calls running.”