Zack Torres was never satisfied.
With an insatiable appetite for competition and victory, the flat-topped Crescenta Valley High senior took his undeniable cross-country talents to another level during the 2008 season. His all-out efforts ended with a tandem of memorable headfirst dives across finish lines, pounded fists when his lofty goals weren’t reached and success to a historic degree as it relates to area chronicle.
More than anything in his arsenal, it was Torres’ will to win that drove him to become the area’s best boys’ cross-country runner three seasons ago, one of the state’s very best two seasons ago and one of the nation’s elite this year.
Hence, for a third straight year, Torres was easily a unanimous choice, as voted by the editors and sportswriters of the Crescenta Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, for the 2008 All-Area Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year.
“He’s as competitive as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Crescenta Valley cross-country Coach Mark Evans said. “He is out there to do the very best he can do.”
Torres’ best was better than most.
“Cross-country appealed to me because I knew I was going to work hard every day and if I worked hard every day, I was gonna do some big stuff,” Torres said. “[When I started], I never really had a goal in mind, I just wanted to beat people.”
In 2008, he cruised to his second consecutive Pacific League individual title, defeating his nearest competitor by eight seconds on his way to setting the Arcadia Park course record.
At the CIF Southern Section Division I finals, Torres finished second, a mark that would’ve made most proud, but had him fuming at coming up short of his CIF championship goal.
A week later, on the larger stage of the CIF-State Meet, he once again finished second, but found himself more content with the mark after running a stupendous race to the tune of a 15-minute 10-second finish.
Unlike most, Torres’ season didn’t end with the state meet. He continued on, qualifying for the Foot Locker Nationals.
There, Torres ended his high school cross-country career with an exclamation point.
Much like he did earlier in the season at the Clovis Invitational, Torres made a last-second dive across the finish line.
At Clovis, he notched second place by a nose.
At the nationals in San Diego, he became an All-American upon further review.
After Torres was initially told he had finished 16th — a spot away from All-American status — replays showed that the Falcon had soared into a tie for 15th with his headfirst flare for the dramatic.
He was told at the event banquet that night, bringing to close a weekend in which he said he’ll never forget.
“For me, getting to the national championships and getting to run in that race and getting treated like I did ... it just blew my mind,” Torres said. “It’s been so up and down, the thing that summed it up was the end of the year. Everything that I’ve done was all worth it.”
Indeed, it is “everything” that propelled Torres to such success and what he will likely be remembered most for.
“You don’t have to tell him to work harder,” said Evans of Torres, who also juggles baseball and track and field in the spring.
A well-known work ethic and an all-out desire to be the best have marked Torres’ ascension.
He began his Crescenta Valley cross-country days as a relative newcomer to the sport. Still, Evans saw success in the making.
“I certainly felt there was that potential there, that ability,” Evans recalled.
Both potential and ability showed at the season’s conclusion when Torres emerged as the state’s fastest freshman. He continued to improve in his sophomore season and blossomed as a junior.
With Torres winning his first Pacific League individual title, the Falcons claimed the league team title. Torres would later finish fifth at the Southern Section finals and sixth at state. The Falcons advanced along with him, finishing fifth at the state meet, as they qualified for the prestigious meet as a team for the first time ever.
As a senior, Torres was surrounded by an inexperienced group of new teammates. The Falcons would finish third in league, advancing to the CIF prelims, but no farther. Nevertheless, he took his leadership role to heart.
“He’s still very team-oriented,” Evans said. “He sees a responsibility with the younger guys. I think he wanted to show these kids what it takes.”
What it took for Torres was something many don’t have.
He diligently studied opponents, taking notes on how they started, how they ran hills, when they made their kick and on and on. He awoke early to train, kept pushing himself in practice when there was nobody left for him to run beside and battled in every race until the finish. In the end, it all equated to a stellar season and career, as Torres stood alone as the area’s best and then some.
“That competitive side has always been with me,” he said. “I grew up being competitive. ...It didn’t matter what, I wanted to win.”