PASADENA — Every race has a finishing point.
Yet, the same may not necessarily apply to every runner.
Take La Salle High junior Daniel De La Torre, for instance.
This year’s All-Area Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year, as voted by the sports writers and editors of the Pasadena Sun, La Cañada Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, concluded a highly successful 2012 campaign in early June.
This season, De La Torre was the lone area athlete to advance to the CIF State Meet in two events, was one of five area participants to win a CIF Southern Section Division championship, and claimed a handful of nonleague invitational titles.
Success on such a level would usually call for some relaxation.
In De La Torre’s case, the rest comes somewhat reluctantly as the 17-year-old was put on a one-month running sabbatical by his coach, La Salle’s Fred Riley, in an attempt to heal.
“During this month where I can’t run, I have to do other forms of physical activity to take in place of running. Without my daily routine of running, it’s hard to function normally throughout the day,” De La Torre said. “It’s harder to sleep. There are some nights where I’ve been up until 6 a.m. because it’s hard to sleep.
“I go back to my old swimming days. I swim in the gym and get in lots of weight-lifting to take place of that running, but it’s not the same.”
De La Torre’s motivation comes from two sources, the first being a need to challenge himself.
“I see running as one of the greatest ways to push your body and mind to its greatest limit,” De La Torre said. “If I quit running today, who’s to say I don’t quit school the next day or my job later down the line. The discipline I have today for running, I’ll have tomorrow for life.”
Yet, there’s another burning desire that stems from a deeper source.
“It’s hard to say I had a good year. I didn’t have a good CIF State Final and I didn’t do well at Masters,” De La Torre said. “I go back to cross-country when I was third (in the CIF State Division IV meet) and I know I could have done better. I’m out to win and push myself.”
De La Torre’s 2012 campaign concluded with him finishing ninth at the CIF State meet in Clovis in the 1,600-meter run in a time of 4 minutes, 16.38 seconds followed by a fourth-place effort of 9:06.60 in the 3,200.
“The thing about it is that I never aspire to be fourth-best, third-best or second-best, especially at meets like state,” De La Torre said. “Even if I [would have set a personal record] I would have only been a little happy.
“Going into an elite race like that, with all the elite runners like that, with college scouts looking and everything like that, fourth, third place and second place just doesn’t really suit me.”
De La Torre entered the track postseason with quite a few successes having already won the 3,200-meter run at the San Gabriel Valley Championships on April 21 in a time of 9:15.15, while also previously claiming the 3,200 at the South Pasadena Invitational (9:23.02) and the Phoenix Greenway Invitational (9:36.85).
His first postseason race was a hit as De La Torre clinched Del Rey League titles in the 1,600 (4:21.24) and 3,200 (9:18.85) at Citrus College on May 3.
“Daniel is one of the few athletes where you don’t have to worry about him showing up for a 2 p.m. practice late. He’ll be there at noon and would have already run a couple of miles,” Riley said. “Daniel’s passion is unique and at times we’ve had to hold him back because he wants to do too much.”
At the following week’s CIF-SS Division IV preliminaries at Carpinteria High, De La Torre finished second in the 1,600 (4:13.87) and first in the 3,200 (9:19.93).
“Going into the prelims, I felt really relaxed with my 4:14 and my 3,200,” De La Torre said. “When the race finished, I felt like running another 3,200, but my coaches told me to take it easy.”
The advice, coupled with a light week of practice, paid off at the CIF-SS Division IV championships on May 19 at Mt. San Antonio College as the junior ran personal bests in both the 1,600 (4:10.74) and 3,200 (9:05.35) in winning divisional crowns in each event. De La Torre’s 1,600 mark was the best for an athlete that day.
“That’s the way I should have been running all year. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish,” De La Torre said. “The problem is that I didn’t do better.”
In consecutive weeks at the Masters Meet at Cerritos College on May 25 or at state on June 2, De La Torre suffered spasms.
De La Torre finished sixth at Masters in the 1,600 (4:12.84) and fourth in the 3,200 (9:06.13) and only fractionally improved upon his 3,200 time at state.
“I’ve wanted to be a state champion for the longest time. I’m just working toward that and my disappointment at state will only fuel me,” De La Torre said. “I have all the motivation in the world, having not had one successful state meet. Not one. And I just want to be the best runner I can be. I want to take my running to a whole new level.”
Since June 2, De La Torre has been transitioning from track to cross-country, with training soon to get underway. The good news for De La Torre is that he’s only a couple of weeks away from returning to running.
“Running is kind of an addiction for me. Running is like my medicine,” De La Torre said. “When I’m stressed, I go on a run. When I’m happy, I go on a run. When I’m sad, I go on a run. When I want to celebrate something, I say ‘Hey’, let’s go on a run.’ Running is a big part of my life. Running is something. It’s not a sport; it’s a way of life.”