Iowa track runner set to graduate from college: 'Being a mother is the most rewarding thing of all'

Aaron Young

It's been a whirlwind college experience for University of Iowa women's track and field sprinter Alexis Hernandez.

The San Diego native moved to Iowa City and wrote a letter to herself that detailed what she was hoping for out of her college years: A stellar track and field career, her friends, family and all of the fun she would have while in school.

The only thing missing? Her 20-month-old daughter, Peyton.

University of Iowa women's track and field runner Alexis Hernandez, 22, and her 20-month-old daughter, Peyton, pose for a photo leading up to Hernandez's graduation from UI on Saturday.

After all those experiences, Hernandez, 22, is set to graduate from UI on Saturday.

"I've accomplished a lot of things in classroom and in track," Hernandez told the Register on Wednesday, "but being a mother is the most rewarding thing of all."

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Hernandez won't be able to walk during Saturday's graduation ceremonies because of the Big Ten Conference outdoor track and field championships in University Park, Pa. So she had photos celebrating the accomplishment ahead of time, in her track uniform as well as her cap and gown.

She tweeted some of the photos on Tuesday. Hernandez re-designed her cap with sunflowers and gold lettering that reads: "Peyton, This one is for you!"

On her Facebook profile, she expressed her pride in finding a road to graduation while balancing her duties as a mother. She also mentioned the reality in her viral tweet.

Hernandez said she can't imagine life without her daughter. She said there's "a lot of ups and downs" and "it's hectic" when having a child during college. But once a few months had passed since Peyton was born, Hernandez said she got the hang of it.

"It became normal," she said. "I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. After having her, I realized this is all going to come to an end soon, so I needed to make the most of it, put 100 percent into everything I do."

University of Iowa women's track and field runner Alexis Hernandez and her daughter, Peyton.

Hernandez's friends and family have congratulated her, as have strangers on social media, with many young mothers applauding her.

"I think it's nice to be acknowledged for my accomplishments, but I think it's even more rewarding to know that if there are other young mothers out there, for them to know that it is possible," Hernandez said. 

"They can do what they put their mind to."

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