Campus & community, People, Profiles

Track and field athlete Frankie Cruz dreams of running for Puerto Rico

The first-year student, whose events are triple jump, long jump and sprints, hopes to compete in the Olympics, go into real estate, start a sports program for foster kids and someday run for his home country of Puerto Rico

a person with short dark hair and glasses stands outside with a lot of students in the background and smiles widely
The first-year student, who grew up in foster care in Brentwood, California, wants to create a program that supports kids in foster care who are interested in sports. "Luckily, I had foster parents and a family who were supportive and that had Olympians who went to Berkeley, so I had a very good support system," says Cruz. "But not everyone has it."

Brittany Hosea-Small for UC Berkeley

This Q&A is part of a series of new student profiles for our 2023 back-to-school coverage. Have someone you think we should write about? Contact [email protected].

Berkeley News: Where are you from, and what year are you?

Frankie Cruz: Brentwood, California. I’m a first-year.

Why did you decide to come to Berkeley?

I got recruited as a track and field athlete on scholarship.

What events do you do?

I do a triple jump, long jump and I do sprints, too.

What was it like being recruited?

It was kind of a weird experience for me because I got declined by Berkeley when I applied, and then I went to the (California Interscholastic Federation) State Track and Field Championships, and got recruited from there. And then I went through a whole process of writing an appeal, saying why I belong here at Cal. And then Ms. Johnson, the head coach here, she ended up getting me in. I also had aunts that went here that were Olympians in the 80s.

Have you always been an athlete? When did you start getting really into it?

I guess I started really getting into sports my freshman year of high school. But I did some sports in middle school, like I did like wrestling and a little bit of track. And then I did football and track in high school.

What do you like about the events that you do? How do you feel when you’re competing?

I feel this rush. I kind of like the attention I get, especially for jumps. It’s just so exciting to compete at a high level, especially when you have family and friends watching you. It’s just a great feeling.

Do you ever feel a lot of pressure?

There’s always the pressure of competing. I want to be able to go to the Olympics by the end of my sophomore or junior year. I feel like I always hold myself to a higher standard than probably most other people do. So I always put that pressure on myself. But I like to live in the pressure; I like to work harder into it.

Do you have an event that you especially love?

I like triple jump. I didn’t really start with that, it wasn’t my main event. Long jump was. But I started triple jump, like, four months ago, and I ended up being able to make it to State. For some reason, it clicked for me, and I find that really exciting.

Is triple jump really hard? It looks incredibly difficult.

I feel like it’s one of the hardest events in track and field just because there are so many aspects to it. You’ve got to stay upright. You’ve got to make sure you jump off two feet on one leg, so you go, like, right, right, left, right, left, left, right. So it’s really technical. After a point, it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how fast you are, it’s the minor details in the jumps that are really going to get you to that next level to get better.

Do you have something that you do that helps you focus? Do you have some kind of routine to put you in the zone?

I listen to this playlist, and I always have a prayer I say before my events. I pray to God that I’m going to stay healthy and that the pressure doesn’t consume me and that I do good and that I don’t get in my head. And then, I always pray to my uncle because he always supported me in sports, but he never really got to watch me. He passed away a couple of years ago. He was my biggest supporter in sports, so I always dedicate my events to him.

What do you plan on studying here? What are you interested in?

Currently, I’m undeclared, but I would really love to be able to make it into the business school and work on business marketing or management and go into real estate, because that’s my dream.

Do you feel like what it takes to be good at, say, track, that you can also apply that to other areas of your life, like to business?

I believe so. I feel like, just in life in general, in school, I try to live in the moment and never forget that God has a path for you. No matter what you go through or what he puts in your life, he’s always putting you on a successful path as long as you listen to him. That’s what I believe.

Besides going to the Olympics and going into real estate, what other goals or dreams do you have?

I’m Puerto Rican, so I would love to be able to run for Puerto Rico. My grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, and my papa came to New York with them when he was little. So I would love to be able to run for Puerto Rico one day and support where I’m from, myself and my culture.

Do you go back to visit family in Puerto Rico?

I don’t really know anybody in Puerto Rico. I have a complicated life. I was in foster care, and I want to create a program for kids who are in foster care who want to do sports because I feel like not a lot of foster kids get recognized, especially when they want to be athletes.

Did you have that support as a kid?

Luckily, I had foster parents and a family who were supportive and that had Olympians who went to Berkeley, so I had a very good support system. But not everyone has it. So that’s why I want to make a program for kids, so they can get help getting a counselor and getting into college and with their careers.