Miguel Lozano is a member of the IUPUI Track and Field team. He came to IUPUI from Mishawaka High School where he was an All-State runner in both track and field and cross country.
Imagine hearing a doctor say “you have cancer,” when you’re only 16 years old.
Now imagine hearing those words and losing your brother and sister all within a two-year span.
For Michael Lozano, those things were a reality.
And one simple action has helped him not just get through those tragedies, but every obstacle he has ever faced in life.
On Lozano’s 17th birthday, July 6, 2010, his phone rang with anticipated news.
Finally an answer to concerns regarding his health, but not the words Lozano wanted to hear.
“It was actually on my birthday when I got the call from an oncologist that said “Yes you for sure have cancer,’” he said.
It was just weeks before Lozano was set to begin his junior cross country season at Mishawaka High School in northern Indiana, and he had a decision to make of how to fight his recently diagnosed testicular cancer.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy were all on the table, but the decision for Lozano was an easy one, a decision that had been made long before the idea of having cancer even crossed the young man’s mind.
Lozano played football, wrestled, and ran track in middle school, but never gave any thought to using his natural speed for a sport like cross country.
That was until Mishawaka Cavemen cross country coach Chris Kowalewski saw him run.
“I knew the talent that he had, and I didn’t want to lose him,” Kowalewski said.
It didn’t take long for Lozano’s future high school coach to realize he had the opportunity to get a talented kid to come out for cross country.
“There are certain things we can’t coach as coaches,” he said. “That is talent, desire and work ethic and he had those. So when we saw him in middle school, we were like this is a kid that we have to get.”
And the rest is history.
By the time Lozano was diagnosed with cancer, cross country and track had already started to shape his future as both an athlete and as a person.
“To me at the time cross country was everything,” he said. “Our team was good and I just wanted to be out there with my teammates.”
Lozano inevitably elected to have surgery, removing the mass of cancer, and luckily only missed a month of running.
“Throughout the whole process it wasn’t necessarily like a physical hardship,” he said. “But more of a mental one, because I didn’t really know what was going on.”
His teammates and coach, who were there for him when he lost his sister Angie in the summer of 2009, and would be there again when he lost his brother, Mitch in the fall of 2011, showed their support after hearing the news.
Mentally, Lozano was in dire need of reassurance.
“He was definitely discouraged and I think he needed people around him to support him,” Kowalewski said. “I think, mentally, he didn’t know where to go, and he wondered how was it going to affect his running and how was it going to affect his life.”
What happened next was a direct result of the special relationship Lozano and his teammates had formed with each other.
For the first time since 1983, Mishawaka advanced to the cross country state finals with Lozano and his motivation front and center.
After beating cancer, Lozano was more motivated than ever before.
“As much as it was a downer, it was also a motivator in the sense that I’ve conquered this, and anything is possible now,” he said. “I had to get back and we had all these aspirations and goals of going to state for the first time since the 80s and placing well as an individual.”
In Kowalewski’s eyes, Lozano kicking cancer’s butt actually helped both him as an individual and the team.
“The fact that he was able to come back that year, I think actually helped him and our team,” he said. “Because it gave us more of a chip on our shoulder and more of a mission to run and more of a purpose.”
Lozano and the Cavemen advanced to the state finals in 2010, but both only got a taste of the success about to come.
In track Lozano placed 15th in the state in the 3200 meter race, and began to set himself apart from other runners in the state.
Heading into his senior season, mail from college coaches started to roll in, but in the end the decision to come to IUPUI would be an easy one.
In his senior campaign, Lozano led Mishawaka to a fourth place finish in the state, including a sixth place finish as an individual.
Mitchell Hubner from LaPorte finished second in the same race, while South Bend St. Joseph’s Joey Zielinski finished fourth.
Three top-6 finishes from seniors who competed against each other throughout high school, and who were all IUPUI bound with hopes of building up a program.
“In the beginning it was just a question if we could be really good if we all came here,” Lozano said.
The success for the cross country team was imminent thanks to the trio from The Region.
“IUPUI is by no means a powerhouse in cross country,” he said. “But since we’ve come in we’ve won two conference cross country titles.”
The Jaguars won Summit League titles in both Lozano’s junior and senior campaigns, while as an individual Lozano was named second-team all conference as a sophomore, and a first-team selection as a junior.
In May of 2016 Lozano earned a degree in Kinesiology, and that spring decided to take a step away from the track and field program.
Another testament of how over the years running and his teammates and coaches has made a positive impact on Lozano’s future outlook.
“Along the way throughout my college career, I actually got involved on campus kind of a lot,” he said.
Lozano served as the vice president of the student-athlete advisory committee and when the opportunity to gain internship and real-life experience came, he jumped at it.
“I got the opportunity to work in a corporate fitness setting,” he said. “And I wanted to do that, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that with athletics piled on top of that.”
Too many it would look like quitting, but from his high school coach’s point of view, it was just Miguel thinking about the future.
“Some people identify themselves as an athlete first,” Kowalewski said. “Like if they have a bad season or a bad race it affects them personally. Miguel is starting to see that being a runner is just a part of who he is.”
Lozano has continued to think about the future, enrolling in prerequisite classes for an accelerated nursing degree this school year, and rejoining the track and field team for one last go around.
“If I do become a nurse, I love the appeal of working three or four days a week and having that off time, and hopefully getting into coaching,” he said. “I like the idea of taking young high school athletes and being able to mold them into the athlete they will be in the future, kind of like my coach did with me.”
Running will always be a part of Lozano’s life, because without it, the relationships he’s built, and the lessons he’s learned, he wouldn’t be where he is today.