Abraham Alvarado was a quiet kid, the kind nobody really noticed as he was growing up in Atwater.
He was shy, soft-spoken and didn't stand out. He didn't draw much attention to himself in school, he wasn't the star on the soccer team, and he certainly wasn't well known in the local running community.
Yes, Alvarado flew under the radar. But not anymore.
Now a junior at Stan State, Alvarado will be representing the university next week in Bradenton, Florida, as he races for an NCAA Division II National Championship in the 800-meter run. He's the top-seeded runner in the event as he leads a record-setting contingent of 11 Warrior men and women competing for national titles.
Alvarado didn't spring into the track and field spotlight until his senior year at Atwater High, when he won the Sac-Joaquin Section 800-meter title. Suddenly, college coaches began to call. Sacramento State, Chico State and Fresno State all wanted him in their colors.
But Sac State and perennial powerhouse Chico State didn't offer Alvarado a scholarship, and Stanislaus head coach Diljeet Taylor did — enough of a stipend to entice Alvarado to drive the 20 miles each day to run in the red and gold.
"Even though I am local, I didn't really hear about Stanislaus' track team and never really considered coming here," Alvarado said. "(Taylor) told me about Terence (Ellis) and Dawson (Vorderbruegge). She told me how she was able to coach Terence, who couldn't break two minutes in the 800 in high school to running a 1:49. She told me how they went to Nationals and became All-Americans."
Since his arrival, he has won three consecutive CCAA titles in the 800. At the 2016 Championships, he also took the 1500-meter gold and helped the 4x400-meter relay team to a win. This week, Alvarado was named the Stanislaus State Male Athlete of the Year. His school record in the 800 of 1 minute, 47.23 seconds is the best in the nation this season.
Taylor saw the talent and potential in Alvarado, and knew all he needed was some guidance and coaching.
"One of the most important parts of coaching is the relationship you develop with the individual student-athlete, especially in our sport where they are going for individual titles," Taylor said. "That confidence has to be there. I just believe in my athletes and they ended up believing in me. That's it. There is no magic formula for it, really."
As an adolescent, Alvarado ran because he couldn't sit still. He ran around the yard when his father was grooming his family's lawn and garden. He ran around at family functions with cousins. He ran around the fields when he went to work with his father.
Now, under Taylor's direction, Alvarado logs seven miles a day and about 40 miles a week. She paces him during the season and limits his participation in regular season meets.
"Abe is very talented. He hasn't even reached his full potential yet," Taylor added. "We are not over-training him because we know he has goals beyond Stanislaus and we don't want him to burn out."
At the CCAA Championships, Alvarado entered three events for only the second time in his collegiate career. He was nervous about having to run five races in two days, but it was the confidence instilled in him by Taylor that allowed him to power through en route to three victories.
"You don't know what to expect." he said. "What kept me calm was knowing Coach Taylor let me do it because she knew I was ready."
Alvarado also qualified for the 1500 at the NCAA Championships but declined the spot in order to focus on the 800-meter run.
Turning down the second berth means Taylor believes in Alvarado's ability to go all out in the single race to win a national title, in front of a large crowd and a live online audience.
Lots of people are watching this kid run now.