When Zack Torres began his days as a Crescenta Valley High cross-country runner, he was a relative novice as it related to the sport.
And he certainly had no idea he was beginning on a path that would end with him becoming a UCLA Bruin.
“If you would’ve told me that I would’ve been a scholarship Pac-10 athlete, I would’ve been like, ‘In what?’ [I was] 5-foot-5, 110 pounds,” said Torres, a few hours after signing and faxing his letter of intent to run cross-country and track and field for UCLA this fall.
A three-time All-Area Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year, two-time Pacific League champion and All-State runner and an All-American as a senior, the senior will leave a laundry list of accolades behind as a Falcon as he looks to add more as a Bruin.
“It feels good,” said Torres, who advanced to the Masters Meet in track last year. “I really liked their program, I really like their coaches and I really liked their runners. I really think that I fit in quite well there.”
A four-year standout in the Falcons cross-country program, Torres ended his freshman year as the state’s top-ranked ninth-grader. Raw as Torres might have been at the start, Falcons Coach Mark Evans saw plenty of promise after a season’s worth of running.
“To me, it was a matter of, you have the tools ... can you continue to improve, will you still have that drive,” Evans said. “There was also baseball, it’s a lot to be a two-sport athlete. He really made that work.”
And now, running cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track, Torres will look to excel as a Bruin.
Despite plenty of attention from other schools, including a few of UCLA’s Pacific-10 Conference rivals, Torres found himself drawn to the Westwood campus by the Bruins’ overall sports tradition and the way he fit in with the running program.
“The tradition of the sports down there stood out,” Torres said. “I really felt wanted there. I felt like I could go there and make a difference.”
The Bruins cross-country team finished 26th at the NCAA Championships in 2008, but, for the most part, lacks the historical tradition of some of the school’s other programs, such as basketball, softball and water polo. Torres would certainly like to play a part in continuing the program’s rise.
“My real goal is to make a difference and help them win,” he said.
Added Evans: “I think it’s a real good fit for him. He looked at a lot of places, he did a lot of research. It’s just a good fit, he saw the things there that he wanted.”
But for now, Torres is focused on playing his last baseball season in the spring and trying to further his CIF success in track and field.
“The college thing, in my mind, is secondary right now because I’m still in high school,” he said.
Thus, Torres has roughly four more months as a Falcon before he becomes a Bruin.