By John Philip Wyllie
Hilltop hurdler Jessica Torres made a very favorable impression on coach Dan Kray last season.
“In one of her first races as a hurdler she had a nasty fall halfway through the race against Castle Park. She picked herself up and finished the race with a decent time. That is when I knew she had the mentality to run hurdles,” Kray said.
Torres went on to the CIF tournament in the 110 meter hurdles and she was the first alternate in the finals. Not bad for somebody that had been known only as a long distance runner at the start of the year.
Back for her senior season, Torres hopes to shave a few seconds off of her 110 time. She will also compete for the Lancers in the 300 meter hurdles and the 4X4 relay. And she continues to impress her coach with her work ethic and toughness.
“Rain or shine she is here,” Kray said. “During the first week of practice she was sick, but she was here trying to work through it. I had to send her home one day because I could see that she was doing herself more harm than good. She is a perfectionist and somebody that will not quit until she gets it done. I attribute her success to her hard work and her refusal to settle for less.”
Torres, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, comes from a track family.
“Two of my brothers ran track and they got me into it. I started my freshman year running the 800. I did that for two years and then last year I started running hurdles with coach Kray and I found out that I was pretty good at it. That is my event now,” she said.
While she still runs long distances in the fall as a member of the school’s cross country team, hurdling is what really intrigues her.
“The two events are completely different. Running the 800 is all about endurance and running hurdles is all about technique. You have to be really good with your steps and have good timing to run hurdles.”
Part of her success comes from her ability to close off the rest of the world when she is running and focus completely on her technique.
“With the hurdles I don’t even think about the competition. I just look at the finish line and go for it. I stay focused.”
Torres is also focused in the classroom where she is a better than average student. Her heritage is important to her so she has become actively involved in the school’s Spanish Club.
Torres wants to close out her high school track career with an appearance at the state meet. Next year she plans to enroll at Southwestern College where she will run cross country and track.
“Last year, I finished fifth or sixth in the CIF championship. This year, I want to go the states in the hurdles, so I want to finish in the top three.”