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West’s Dominick Fonseca pushes himself to state track meet

Published May 29 at 6:27 p.m. | Last updated May 31 at 7:31 a.m.

The words of his father spill from Dominick Fonseca’s lips.

The father who was a stranger until Fonseca, a West High junior, went to live with him following his mother’s death in a car accident. The father who was a stranger because he was in prison for most of Fonseca’s life.

Yet Fonseca speaks his words. Fonseca is eager to follow the lessons of his father’s words. Whether it’s academics or a positive outlook on life.

And the reason Fonseca runs? His father.

“He told us, ‘You’re going to do a sport every season from now on,’ ” Fonseca said. “Well, track was coming up, so I went out for track.”

Fonseca will compete in four Class 5A events in the state track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Cessna Stadium.

Fonseca, initially placed in sprints as a track newbie, later found his niche in distance races. He has 5A’s No. 2 time in the 1600 meters (4 minutes, 25.26 seconds) and the 3200 (9:39.74).

Fonseca, who finished second in the 5A cross country meet in November, will run the 1600 and 3200 relays, the latter with freshman brother Jonathan.

He also has the No. 2 time in Kansas history in the steeplechase (6:08.27), the second-fastest time in the nation this year. The event is not run much in high school meets and not in the state meet.

“The kid’s got a lot of natural talent,” West distance coach Steve Couch said. “I still don’t think he’s reached his potential.”

Fonseca hasn’t always spoken his father’s words with such ease. He remembered nothing about his father when he and Jonathan moved in after their mother, Diana, died in a car accident when Fonseca was in seventh grade.

“We were in the turning lane, about to turn left, and a car ran a red light,” Fonseca said. “I was right behind her. My stepdad broke his ribs, my little brother, Jonathan, he broke his neck.

“It was tough, man. I lived in Texas at the time. We had to move to Kansas with my dad, and it was basically like living with a stranger. We didn’t have that relationship.”

For 10 years, up to when Fonseca was 12, his father Chris had been in prison serving a sentence on two aggravated battery convictions.

So when Fonseca moved in, there were inevitable issues as the boys learned how to live without their mother, and with their father.

Fonseca got into a fight in his first day of school in Wichita, in eighth grade.

“I got suspended,” he said. “But I always stayed positive. One thing my dad told me, ‘You keep your head up. There’s always positives in everything. We always try to stay positive.”

Chris Fonseca knows the darkness of wrong choices.

“The friends, the homies, doing this, doing that, that’s not what life is about,” he said. “It’s about making an example of yourself, regardless of what situation you’re in, if you’re in jail or out here in the real world. You’re successful if you’re making something of yourself.”

Dominick Fonseca buckled down at school and just finished his junior year with a 3.6 GPA. Chris Fonseca said his son is always either running or reading.

Dominick Fonseca had to focus on his academics because his dad is dead set on his boys going to college.

And running, that’s one way to make it easier on him.

“My family, we’re not really rich at all,” Fonseca said. “My dad, he uses it like, ‘Running is your ticket to college. You have to be the best you can.’ He’s big on education, so we’re always on the honor roll.”

Fonseca knows he should have realized long before he moved to Kansas that he was destined to be a runner.

He boxed while living with his mother, and, during conditioning, he was always the first one finished. In a school fitness test, he said he and Jonathan always had the highest scores.

“I think he’s got a natural running stride,” Couch said. “He’s very smooth, his form is good, and he works hard.”

Fonseca also craves winning.

The impetus behind that desire to win comes from his father.

“He wants me to push myself,” Fonseca said. “He’s always saying, ‘Push yourself, push yourself.’ I want to see how fast I can get. I push myself as far as I can go.

“I’m just trying to get the most out of my body, pushing until I can’t go no more. I want to see how fast I can go or how fast I can get. I push, push, push as much as I can.”

Fonseca requested tougher workouts from Couch in 2013, but he didn’t get them.

“I guess he didn’t think I was tough enough,” Fonseca said. “This cross country season, I was by far the fastest on our team, so he felt like I needed some tougher workouts.”

And that carried over into track.

If Couch gives the other runners five miles, Fonseca does six. If the team does 12 200s, Fonseca does 16.

“We had one day where he ran six miles, everyone else ran five and then I wanted them to do a hard 400,” Couch said. “He ran a 57 (seconds) after he ran six miles. His ability to recover, I think it has to do with his form.”

What eludes Fonseca is that title. He’s sketching out his future, focusing in on a possible career as a physical therapist.

But he wants that championship. Badly.

And that makes the goal this weekend simple.

“I want a state championship for the mile and the 2 (-mile), both if I could. I know I’ll win or take second,” he said. “And in the (3200 relay), I want a state medal for my brother. That’s why I’m running it, to let him get a little experience at state.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.