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Canby senior Jennifer Torres has PR'd by nearly a minute and 20 seconds this season

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Canby senior Jennifer Torres, with cross country coach Tom Millbrooke, has already PR'd by neraly a minute and 20 seconds this season.

As Canby senior Jennifer Torres crossed the finish line in 19 minutes, 32.3 seconds to place third at the Three Rivers League preview, no one was more surprised than her.

"I didn't even know that I could do that," Torres says. "I didn't know that I was able to do that."

A year ago, running on the same course at Clackamas Community College, Torres had finished 40th in 21:58 at the Three Rivers League championship meet.

"It was very rough that day," Torres recalls. "I'm not sure why. It wasn't a good race day."

Torres has ran track since her freshman year. She prefers the 800-meter run to a 5K. But at the encouragement of Candy distance coach Bob Webber decided to give cross country a try for the first time last year.

"It was very hard," Torres says. "I didn't really take it seriously at all. I was very inconsistent with practices."

Her best time last season was a 20:50 at the 2018 Three Rivers preview.

"I always wanted to go sub 20," Torres says. "That was always a big goal of mine. I really wanted it."

Her breakthrough came on the track, where last spring Torres finished third in the 800 and ninth in the 1500 at the Three Rivers League championship meet in Oregon City. She ran personal best times in both events.

"I just went for it," Torres recalls. "Before I didn't believe in myself as much. I was very shy."

"You run that fast on the track and then all of a sudden, the distance is an issue in cross country, but the pace seems pretty tame to her," Canby track and cross country coach Tom Millbrooke says.

Torres continued running after track season.

Visiting family in Mexico, She then spent all summer in higher altitude.

Groups of elite runners like the Nike Oregon Project and Bowerman Track Club often adopt the live high and train low method, where athletes will live in higher altitude areas like Park City Utah, but then train at lower altitudes. The main idea is to reap the benefits of high altitude acclimatization while maintaining the intensity of low altitude training.

"She at least lived high," Millbrooke says. "Your body probably has to adjust even if it's not training there."

Torres says she ran off and on this summer, but was more consistent over the final two weeks, running on a gravel track near Mexico City in around 7,200 feet of elevation.

She did not keep up with her total summer milage.

Back in the United States, Torres battled side aches at her first cross country meet this season, but was still close to her PR, finishing the Canby Invitational in 20:56.4 at Molalla River State Park.

She started the Three Rivers League preview meet just inside the top 10, before working her way through the field to finish third.

"I just moved up. I don't think I was racing fast or anything," Torres recalls. "I think the (other) girls just died out. I slowly moved my way up. I just went for it. I felt really good throughout the whole race. I didn't really have any problems. I was really shocked and impressed. I can't believe that happened."

Torres finished less than three seconds behind Canby teammate Izabela Kacalek, who owns multiple school records.

"She's awesome. She's very inspiring," Torres says of Kacalek. "She motivates me every single day here. I always try to run with her. Before, I used to not see myself running with her or racing with her. She was just so good. But now I think I can."

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Torres finished third at the Three Rivers League Preview on Sept. 11 at Clackamas Community College.

Millbrooke says Torres has been a good example for Canby's other runners, especially the younger ones.

"She's just very focused, very level headed, pretty even-keeled and those things benefit you in competitions," Millbrooke says. "You're able to focus on the race and just take care of things at hand. Everybody gets nervous, but she handles it well. She's a real solid competitor."

Torres will need to finish in the top seven at the 2019 Three Rivers League championship meet on Oct. 30 to qualify for the Class 5A state meet, a goal she did not believe was possible at the start of the season.

"That was not a goal, but now it definitely is," Torres says. "I wasn't thinking I could do it. I'm just going to try my best and not really have a (time) goal in mind. I just want to do better than I did in the preview. I'm excited for what's next. I don't know what I can do really."

Derek Wiley
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