Senior distance runner Amanda Moreno, who transferred from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2010 was originally recruited out of high school but never made it to UCSB on a recruiting trip. But after taking an architectural drafting class at Santa Barbara City College following her freshman year, she knew where she wanted to be.

“[SBCC] was the only one that offered that class in the summertime in California, and I needed it for my major at the time,” Moreno said. “I love it here. I’m so much happier. It’s the perfect place to train.”

[media-credit id=20125 align=”alignleft” width=”165″][/media-credit]Moreno began running track in sixth grade and has stuck around the sport ever since. At Escalon High School, she was named All-District in cross country from 2002-05. In 2003, she was the California State Champion in cross country, and in 2004 she finished sixth at the National Junior Olympics.

“I just love running,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”

For a distance runner, training consists of 70 miles in a week, going up to 80 in the beginning of the season before slowing closer to 60 as the season nears its end, which is where Moreno and the team find themselves now. Her best event has been the 5000m, where she recently placed first in the Big West Championships. Her personal best in the 5000m is 15:58 — also the UCSB record — which she set earlier this season at the Mt. San Antonio College relays in April.

She remembers a cross country race at the Notre Dame Invitational in October 2010 as a key turning point in her running career at UCSB. In the field of 194 runners, Moreno took 11th place. Moreover, she realized what her calling is.

“I was running with the best girls in the country thinking, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be,’” Moreno said. “Since then, things have gone really well. My mental approach has changed. That moment solidified that I could be good.”

At the beginning of this season, Moreno set out to be recognized as an All-American collegiate athlete. Today, she is just a few weeks away from accomplishing that goal. She qualified for the first round of the NCAA Championships next weekend as one of the top 48 runners from the West region. If she finishes among the top 12 there, she will advance to the NCAA Finals in Iowa along with the top 12 runners from the East region. A top-eight finish from that pool of 24 will earn her All-American honors.

“I expect to be in the top eight. I’ve been training for this,” Moreno said. “It’s been a long road, and now I finally have the opportunity.”

While Moreno’s future plans include graduate school and pursuing her interest in psychology, running will remain her main focus even after graduation. She will have the option of joining a professional club team and also hopes to get sponsored by a shoe company. While professional races are less frequent than those on the college circuit, she could participate in road races and run at open invitationals like Mt. SAC and Stanford.

Next June, Moreno will aim to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team for London’s summer games in 2012. To qualify for trials, a time of 15:53 or under for the 5k is a requirement. But the competition does not stop there for her. She is also looking ahead to how long her running career may be afterward.

“If I switch to marathons, I will probably peak around age 35,” Moreno explained. “But if I stay with the 5k, I’ll peak around 27 or 28, which is perfect for the 2016 Olympics.”

Amid these aspirations, Moreno admits that it will be strange to not be a student-athlete anymore.

“I will miss contributing to the team,” Moreno said. “The team atmosphere is amazing, you can’t get that experience any other way… But as long as I’m running, I’m happy.”

Moreno and fellow Gauchos with qualifying marks will compete in the first round of the NCAA in Eugene, Ore. from May 26 to 28.