The Rio Grande Valley has a reputation for producing some of the finest runners in the state of Texas. The intense heat and rocky terrain are assets when it comes to carving these young athletes into great competitors. PSJA Memorial is one of the more well-known names among those in the RGV--with current senior Cruz Gomez leading their team.
Since his freshman season, Cruz has showcased several performances that have been quite remarkable. For example, last year alone he finished fifth place at the UIL 6A state cross country meet, third at the NXR South (qualifying him individually for NXN), and second in the 1600m and 3200m at the UIL 6A state track meet.
Currently, Cruz is one of the best runners in the state and made Texas MileSplit's Preseason All-State 1st team.
I wondered, what exactly goes on in the mind of an athlete of that caliber? Cruz sat with me and answered some questions.
TX MS: Your NXN performance, and your experience as a whole--how was that for you?
CG: Since it was my first year going, there wasn't really any expectations on my end, but I had several goals in mind. It didn't go exactly how I wanted it to go. The course was different than what I am used to. Texas is hot and the ground is unforgiving, hard and rocky. Portland on the other hand was cold, muddy and full of hills. We don't have that in Texas.
TX MS: After a formidable track season, what goals do you have for your final Cross Country season?
CG: I think for every runner it is to become state champion. Most definitely to break 15 minutes. I haven't been able to do that yet. I'm looking to qualify for NXN and become an All-American.
TX MS: When did your running career begin? Have you always had this mentality towards running?
CG: I'd say my freshman year. I ran before that, but it was never really a serious part of my life. Once my freshman year came around, I definitely saw a future in it and started training seriously.
TX MS: I've noticed that you have the ability to be a front runner during your races. However, you also possess the patience to hide back and finish with a lethal kick. What kind of race would you consider your favorite or more your style?
CG: Oh man, that's a hard one. I think it depends, it comes down to the type of race I'm running. Sometimes I just take off, and that's that. My coach has also reminded me several times that I can't always rely on my kick because other runners have that too, you know? I think my favorite is leading. Not many people can do that, and it definitely boosts my confidence.
TX MS: I'm sure you have a lot of fun with that, it's good to see a runner having a good time with what he does. Now, last question and I promise I'll let you go. The valley has produced a good amount of phenomenal runners recently. Is there anyone you look up to in particular, or would you consider yourself to be carving your own way through valley history?
CG: There's two records I'm planning on setting. It's a 32-year-old record I believe, that would be 4:10.9 for the mile and 9:07 in the 3200m run. Those weren't my goals when I was a freshman, but they are looking more and more realistic. I am trying to break those records, but more so just looking to put my name out there. I am trying to be the best distance runner the Rio Grande Valley has ever seen.
TX MS: Bold statement, absolutely. Ambitious goals, definitely. It would certainly be a great thing to see this young man's drive push his body to the lengths it needs to in order to achieve his dreams.
So Texas' 5A Division needs to watch out...Cruz Gomez is not here to play around.