Special to the E-T
Besides superior physical skills, it takes a certain mindset to compete in cross country in Texas.
Individual runners, representing their college teams, cover as many as 10 grueling miles per meet. Add to that the long training sessions in unpredictable weather, and motivation becomes vital to success for those long distance runners.
Tarleton sophomore Kevin Baez is a prototype cross country athlete whose motivation comes from the relationship he has with his parents, his four sisters and two brothers back in tiny Vanderbilt, between Houston and Corpus Christi on the Texas coast.
"Mostly it's my family," he said. "It's important to me to make them proud. They've always supported me. I'm blessed by my family and with the ability to run cross country."
Baez's ability was evident at Industrial High School in Vanderbilt, where he was MVP of the track team, and a three-time state champion. Running the three long-distance events, he turned in personal bests that featured a 1:58 time in the 800-meter run, a 4:20 in the 1,600 and a fleet 9:34 in the 3,200.
That success transferred to the collegiate level. Competing in four meets his freshman season, he captured first place in the Bob Gravett Invitational. He posted a time of 25:58.9 on the eight-mile course, and took third in the eight-mile Angelo State Blue and Gold meet in 26.15.5.
It was that family feel he got from Tarleton that drew him here.
"One of my friends mentioned Tarleton at a running camp. She said she was going to go there, so I looked into it. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I'm comfortable here.
"I wanted to choose a college that's similar to my background and what I like to do. Tarleton really fit that. There's rural living, farm life. That's how I was raised. So that's where that came from. I really love it."
Baez, a distinguished scholar in high school, hopes to build a career around a mechanical engineering degree.
"In the long run I want to own my own business," he said. "To get to that point, I want to get my professional engineer's degree and get hired on to a company."
He'll make it.
He's used to the long run.
For more information on Tarleton's historic move to NCAA Division I, visit TarletonSports.com/D1.