At a cross country meet, the tranquil scene of tall grass, shade trees and rolling hills are covered up by the cars of parents and the busses parked and waiting for the athletes’ rides home.
The serene sounds of birds are drowned out by screaming parents, fans and teammates.
In spite of the overlapping chaos, Rubi Torres of the Great Bend High School cross country team finds peace in running.
“I love the feeling,” Torres said of running. “What I like the most about it is that it is all mental.
“When you’re running, there are like no worries around you. It’s just you and the course. And everyone around you just doesn’t matter because it is about you and what you want to achieve.”
Torres’ life is constantly in motion. Aside from cross country, Torres runs track, swims and plays soccer. She plays violin and piano, and is the sports editor for the school’s paper.
“I try to stay busy with what my mom always has me doing,” Torres said. “I’m crazy and wild. I’m the class clown. I am just a lot of everything.
Torres said that she sees her cross country success taking her to college.
“I really want to be a (division) I runner,” Torres said. “That would just be amazing to say. All the other highlights are nice, but it’s nothing to have all those highlights compared to being a DI runner.”
Torres has the ability to do just that. Todd Kaiser, the Panthers’ cross country head coach, said he believes that Torres will graduate this spring as the most decorated girls cross country runner that has ever come out of Great Bend.
“I’m pretty sure, if she stays healthy, that she’s going to probably going to be the individual (Western Athletic Conference) again,” Kaiser said. “She’s probably going to be a regional medalist again, and depending on the region we’re at, she could possibly be the regional champion.
“And then, she’s probably going to finish in the top 20 at the state meet and be an all-state runner again, and then compete at the next level and compete at college. The only question is where. She’s going to make an excellent addition to any program that she goes to.”
The two runners Kaiser said would possibly compete with Torres would be Chelsea Clanton and Kendra Chambers.
Chambers ran for Great Bend in the early 2000s and didn’t run the 4-kilometer courses that the girls do now. So Chamber’s 2-mile school record remains safe. Clanton’s 4k school record was not.
“Chelsea Clanton held the record before me,” Torres said. “I came in (my sophomore year) and I set a (15 minute, 51 second time), I think, and that’s when everyone said ‘What could you have done your freshman year.’”
Torres has since broken her record twice. The first time, she crossed the finish line at 15:30, and Thursday at Hays, she beat that by 12 seconds to hold her new school record of 15:18.
She began running in elementary school.
“I was in like fifth grade and I signed up for Golden Belt,” Torres said. “I did really good in that. Then I started middle school track, and I did really good in that. In eighth grade, I ran the two-mile and I realized how good I was at that.
“My freshman year, I went out for cheerleading instead of going out for cross country. I don’t regret that, but I wish I had done cross country instead.”
It wasn’t until Josh Lee, Lady Panthers’ cross country assistant coach and Torres’ middle school track coach, told her she should be running cross country, when she decided to make the change.
“I read all of the articles about the cross country team, and that’s when I realized that that could happen to me,” Torres said of her year away from running. “Then seeing all my highlights this year and all of my past years, and it makes me wonder what I could have done my freshman year.”
Her senior year, Torres plans to complete the three-peat as the WAC champion, and she plans to do that in spite of knee pain.
Early this year, Torres was diagnosed with Osgood Schlatters Disease, which is a disease that affects young athletes usually between 10 to 15 years old. It causes pain the knee joint due to the tugging and pulling of tendons in the knee. It affects young athletes during their developmental growth stages.
“I try not to let it bother me,” Torres said. “I don’t think about it. At the very end, when all of your adrenaline is going away, that’s when you start feeling the pain there.
“But no one knows that. It’s not like at the end of the race, any one knows what pain I’m in. It’s just me and that’s me knowing what I was capable of doing in that race.”
Kaiser said that it is Torres’ attitude that will help her achieve her goals.
“She don’t like to get beat,” Kaiser said. “She gets mad when she gets beat, and I’d rather have an athlete that gets mad, that gets upset when they get beat rather than one that just says, ‘Oh well, I did my best.’”