It was a girl’s night out and junior Allie Arsiniega was owning the dance floor when she dropped her phone, and before she could retrieve it, two men grabbed it and ran off.
Most people would be consumed with anger or frustration, letting such a moment ruin their otherwise fun night, but not Arsiniega. Her friend Ona Spreenberg said she was sad for a moment, but quickly shrugged it off, continuing to dance and have a good time.
“For me that was just really motivational,” Spreenberg recalled. “I would have been crying, but she just said ‘F it’, and kept dancing.”
It’s moments such as these that epitomize Arsiniega’s playful and care-free spirit.
“She is always dancing, if there is an opportunity to dance that girl is dancing,” friend and teammate Jordan Linsky said. “That’s just how she is, she’s dancing through life and it’s awesome.”
Despite her love for dancing, it was running that guided Arsiniega through her early years of life.
Arsiniega realized her love for running during elementary school in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, when she looked forward to the monthly mile-time trial, a task many other students dreaded.
“I would get so excited because I would beat all the boys,” Arsiniega said.
She attributes her competitive nature to growing up with two brothers who she said toughened her up, and let her know she could do anything she put her mind to.
It is because of this instilled competitiveness that Arsiniega was the top runner in both track and field, and cross-country in her South Carolina high school, allowing her to receive scholarships from several different universities.
But Arsiniega’s success took a turn when her running scholarships were revoked due to low grades. She admitted she was a handful in high school and put more emphasis on her social life over academics.
“I’m so outgoing and I had a bunch of friends and influences that probably weren’t the best for me,” Arsiniega said.
Arsiniega knew she needed a change of scenery and made the difficult decision to remove herself from the only place she had called home for the majority of her life.
“I needed to straighten up, I need to do something different that I hadn’t been doing,” Arsiniega said.
She decided to break out of her comfort zone and move across the country to the Bay Area, starting a new chapter of her life in a place where she knew no one except for her brother, who she moved in with upon arriving to Oakland.
“She was a very popular girl in South Carolina, she had everything she wanted there,” said Spreenberg. “Then she arrived to a place where she didn’t know anybody, nobody was treating her like a queen.”
Arsiniega started to rebuild her new life in the Bay Area, maintaining a job as a waitress at an Oakland restaurant and taking classes at Berkeley City College, but she noticed there was still something missing. She had taken almost six months off from competitive running, feeling defeated after losing her scholarships, but as she began to find her way in the Bay Area, she realized she was ready to hit the ground running again.
”She always had running in her heart and in her soul and instead of giving up, she said ‘Hell no, I’m going to be the best at it and I’m going to pursue it,’ and she did,” Spreenberg said.
Spreenberg met Arsiniega at Berkeley City College and said although she seemed hesitant to get back into competitive running, Arsiniega would still run recreationally everyday. Eventually she realized there was no denying her love for the sport, and started running cross-country for Merritt College in Oakland.
It was here Arsiniega began to find her groove again. Training hard and standing out in her team of fellow cross-country runners, Arsiniega’s coaches urged her to put together a running portfolio to submit to four-year colleges. After overcoming defeat she had finally been given a second chance at the college running career she had dreamed of in high school.
Arsiniega decided to follow her coach’s advice and leave the rest up to fate.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to run my best and my hardest, and if I can get into a school and run on a team, it’s meant to be’,” Arisniega said.
Fate proved to be in Arsiniega’s favor as she received acceptance letters from several four-year colleges, including some on the East Coast, closer to her hometown. Though tempted to return home, Arsiniega instead decided to continue to pursue more unknown territory, accepting the opportunity to run for the SF State Gators.
“I knew going home was just backtracking,” Arsiniega said. “I just had to trust the process and I did, and now I’m super happy.”
Linsky said she is happy Arsiniega made the decision she did. Like many of Arsiniega’s other friends, Linsky said she admires Arsiniega’s constant positive energy.
“She is one of the most positive people I know,” Linsky said. “Whenever on or off the track, there’s a problem, Allie is the girl you go to because she’s always there to say something to make you feel better.”
Arsiniega said the friends she’s made in the Bay Area have become more like a family to her, especially the community of women on the SF State cross-country team.
“It’s like I have sisters now that I didn’t have by blood,” Arsiniega said. “They’re great, they push me every day.”
Not only has Arsiniega’s journey to the Bay Area allowed her create close friendships, but it has given her a new perspective on diversity and her Latina heritage, something she said was harder to recognize when she lived in South Carolina.
Arsiniega said she always innately felt different when she lived in South Carolina, where a majority of her friends and teammates were white and came from privileged families.
“I just was always more grateful about things where they just got things handed to them,” Arsiniega said. ”That’s another reason I wanted to get a new perspective on life, I knew there was more than just getting things handed to me.”
Spreenberg said it’s been a wonderful experience seeing Arsiniega’s perseverance and growth. “I feel she has grown and has experienced a side of her she didn’t know,” Spreenberg said.
Arsiniega hopes to continue her growth and to inspire others to explore their individuality and not to conform. “I just want to become a better version of myself, that’s all,” Arsiniega said. “I just want to set examples for other people.”
Arsiniega said she now has friends from high school who message her saying she has inspired them to travel and step out of their comfort zone.
“It’s just nice to know that people are also getting out of their bubble and doing their own thing for them and not having to please other people,” Arsiniega said.
She said she finally feels as if she has found a good balance between academics and running. “Now I’m exactly where I wanted to be, just a little bit later than I had planned,” Arsiniega said.
Arsiniega was successful in her first cross-country season this fall, setting her personal best time in the 6K, earning Gator Athletics Athlete of the Week and finishing second for the Gators in the NCAA Division II West Region Championships to finish the season.
She is currently a communications major and although she has not decided exactly what career path she would like to pursue, she knows it will be centered around her outgoing personality and love for people.
As for her future goals as a Gator athlete, Arsiniega said she looks forward to the spring 2017 track and field season, where she hopes to win an NCAA championship.
”I’m reaching for the stars,” Arsiniega said.