DOWNEY — Daniella “Dani” Moreno’s legs have propelled her farther than she ever thought they would.
Moreno, 26, got her running career started at Griffiths Middle School during the weekly and monthly half-mile and mile runs that took place in PE class.
“I was pretty obsessed with always getting better at those,” said Moreno. “I also played soccer. That’s kind of where my fascination with running started.”
She continued to pursue running at Warren High under Coach Jay Waldron.
“I would say that was when my running career really began,” said Moreno.
Moreno says that she likes the individual and the group aspect of competitive running. Especially as a singular competitor, preparation was key.
“It was really fun to run as a team, but it was easier to see your improvements as an individual,” said Moreno. “It was not just the physical aspect, but the mental aspect of it too; especially in cross country each course is slightly different, and so you had to be well prepared for all of them.”
“I think your mental approach to the sport as a whole was a bigger benefit to you as a whole as far as finding success.”
After graduating in 2010, Moreno competed for the University of California Santa Barbara, again competing in cross country and track.
She found success despite a slow start.
“I was injured coming in just as a freshman,” said Moreno. “I ended up being the top runner my last three years there. I got a couple of all-time marks as well.”
“I would say it was a fairly successful career. I feel that I fell a little short because I never quite got a school record and I never was an All-American…overall it was a great experience and, if anything, I learned how much potential I possibly had, so I think that was the biggest thing to come from it.”
Now living in Santa Barbara and after having graduated, Moreno took a break from running and took up a job in outdoor guiding.
Her new occupation ended up opening a door to a whole new running experience: trail running.
“When I was outdoor guiding, I would be in these really cool places and I wanted to explore outside of the job, or where we hiked for the job,” said Moreno. “Either early morning or late in the day after we were done working with the kids or the groups we were working with, I would go for short little runs and that is where the passion started to pick up again.”
Photo courtesy Dani Moreno
Shortly thereafter, her competitive nature started to kick in once again.
“I was doing these runs and I was curious if there were competitions that included this,” said Moreno. “I didn’t really know what to think of it or if it even was a thing, me running on these trails, but every once-in-a-while I’d see other people running and they seemed a lot more prepared than I was.”
“Eventually I found out that there were trail races, so I signed up for one in my area; super low key.”
Moreno won that race, and within a month was entered into a bigger race with prize money attached.
“Being the broke outdoor guide that I was at the time, I was like, ‘Okay, if I can try and get top five I could grab some money, or at least see how fast I need to be in order to start winning money,’” said Moreno.
She won that race too, and took home $1,500.
“I beat a few women that had been on USA teams before for mountain running,” said Moreno. “That’s where it really started.”
After that race, it wasn’t long before Moreno was picked up by her first sponsor, Hoka One One. Rabbit Pro followed.
Her sponsors now include The Lab, Avasol, Sunners High Herbals, Laird Superfood, Whalebird Komuchal, and Unived.
Now a sponsored pro, the door has opened even wider to the path of running success for Moreno.
“It’s honestly the best thing to ever happen to me,” said Moreno. “It’s cool to have kind of found my niche with the trails…My life feels very packed and jammed in all the time, but I don’t mind it…not all athletes get full scholarships for school, so it’s just nice to make a little bit of extra money, pay for the school that allowed me to run in the first place, and let my legs take me to new countries and stuff like that.
“It’s very cool, I’m very grateful.”