Plainview cross country coach Jerry Naylor is often very reserved in praising his pupils. Naylor couldn't hold back about Robert Torres.
The senior was honored at Plainview on Monday for signing his letter of intent St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, the culmination of one of the most decorated careers any boy has had with the cross country powerhouse.
Torres accomplishments — a three-time All-State runner, part of three straight team cross country state championships — are almost overshawdowed by how Naylor described the career arch of the California native.
Unlike many of Plainview's runners, Torres didn't start with the program as a middle schooler, rather as a freshman move-in. What Torres did in four years, and the way he did it, was impressive enough to Naylor.
"When he started, I visited with his parents and said 'this is what we need to do,' and he's done it," Naylor said. "We wouldn't have been as good if it wasn't for him.
"He has bought in to everything I've wanted him to do. As a coach, it's a rare thing when you get someone to buy into everything you do."
Torres, who finished third overall at the state meet in October to lead Plainview to its third consecutive state championship, selected St. Gregory's over Oklahoma City University and Southern Nazarene.
"I really liked their program and what they had going for them," Torres said of St. Gregory's. "I think I'll be one that goes into the varsity team pretty fast. They really want to use me.
"Plainview really helped me with my career. If I wouldn't have come here, I wouldn't have been the person I am today, with all of coach Naylor and coach Bell's help."
Plainview athletic director Johni Bell said it's no coincidence that the boys' cross country program has experienced its finest historical run of success during Torres' four-year career.
Now, there's a dynasty established to rival the girls team's cross country dominance. Torres played a massive role in that.
"Robert came to us as a very inexperienced runner, and it's been awesome to watch him develop into a team leader," said Bell, who coached Torres before going into administration. "He's one of those kids that gives 100 percent during practice and 100 percent during performance, and it has shown.
"I'm not sure St. Gregory's knows how good he is going to be for them."
Erik K. Horne