Mike Holiga is not exactly living the dream. At least, not his original dream.
The Sunlake High junior runner originally wanted to be a running back on the Seahawks football team.
A broken clavicle ended that dream for the 130-pounder.
Sometimes, one door closes and another opens.
The injury created a new opportunity for Holiga, and he became a distance runner. This injury may yet prove to have a silver lining for Holiga, who had played Pop Warner flag football from the time he was 11 years old.
Holiga, 17, wasn't exactly dragged kicking and screaming into the sport, but it took considerable persuasion from Sunlake High cross country coach Jeff Masterson for Holiga to adjust his perception of himself as an athlete.
'He went to the fall sports meeting with his mother, Laura, and sister, Samantha,' Masterson said. 'His sister is doing cheerleading. I talked to him. He told me he ran track.
'I told him he was running cross country now. He told me no, and I said apparently he didn't understand. He is running cross country.
'That Monday, he came out and he has been a strong, hard worker ever since. Rain or shine, he just works hard.'
A distance runner who can handle the 90-degree heat and all those miles can expect to improve his team by plenty of seconds.
Holiga finished 89th in the Zak Lukas Invitational last Saturday at Hernando High.
Holiga ran a time of 20:48, which is impressive for a young person who had never been a distance runner until the past few weeks. Holiga dropped about a minute off his time in the previous week.
'It's pretty good for a sprinter,' Masterson said. 'He keeps telling me he's a sprinter. I told him he is a distance runner.
Holiga's coach loves his running.
Masterson is an accomplished cross country runner, having won a state title in the 3,200 meters during his senior year at Mitchell High. He then ran cross country and track at the University of South Florida.
Masterson is in his first year as Sunlake's coach, and he brings a passion for the sport.
Holiga is adjusting his attitude.
'It's fun,' Holiga said. 'I like it now. I always ran the 100 and 200 meters in track and field. We run six miles in a park and five miles around campus.
'I just really like running. I just really like to pass somebody. Right now, I would like to get a scholarship either for athletics or academics.'
Masterson's mental tricks may have already worked on Holiga.
'He's a long distance runner, and he knows it,' Masterson said. 'The best part is that he has a lot faster times in him.'
Holiga enjoys working with his coach.
'Coach Masterson is a pretty cool guy,' he said. 'He is more like a runner on the team. He is good at motivation. He is very passionate about running.'
Holiga's original dream may be history, but he could develop a dream about a state cross country championship.
Naturally, Masterson will be happy to help him realize that dream.