Striving strongly throughout his final lap with a heavy-breathing crowd following closely, junior distance/sprinter Sebastian Ruiz extended his knees high and stayed light on his feet in order to get to the white finish line. Praise from his team and being one of the first to finish the event gave it away to Ruiz that he just broke his personal record.
After a personal record-breaking day for Ruiz at the Monmouth Invitational by running a 2:05:36 for the 800 meter, he is almost set for the upcoming New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship meet with the help of his coaching and his self-discipline.
Ruiz has shown great spirit and dedication to his sport. A regular day for him is waking up at 5 a.m. for a jam-packed day of school, track and personal responsibilities.
Although he is coming off of a great meet at the Monmouth Invitational, he still is staying focused for the NJAC championship, with an important person in his life serving as motivation heading into the big meet.
“My mom, by far, is who I do it for,” Ruiz said. “Everything she’s gone through, with [her] treatments and surgeries, it’s amazing that she gave 100% effort. Why shouldn’t I give 100% effort? If I want to do something, I get it done.”
With Ruiz injured for most of his freshman and sophomore year with ongoing hip injuries and the tragic timing of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was difficult for him to come back.
“I’ve learned you have to have discipline,” Ruiz said. “Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but doing it like you love it.”
Senior sprinter Emily Albright built a strong connection with Ruiz through her time as his teammate. From the early morning practices they spend together to the intense conversations they have during meet day, they have created a strong bond with each other.
“Sebastian is one of the most dedicated and motivated people to this sport,” Albright said. “He told us his injury could be career-ending, but he [rehabilitated] himself. If that’s not pure willpower then I don’t know what is.”
Albright only has one goal in mind for this upcoming NJAC meet: breaking her own personal record. At the previous NJAC championship meet in 2020, Albright recorded a personal record of 1:03:33 for the 400-meter dash.
With the winter indoor track season of 2021 being canceled due to COVID-19, there has been plenty of time for Albright to focus on her goal.
“With everything that happened with COVID-19, I lost so much time,” Albright said. “This will be my last season [of indoor track] to compete in [and] it’s honestly the pure motivation to break my [personal record]. It’s the last opportunity I have to do it.”
The track and field program has had its ups and downs in recent years, with some less than stellar performances as a whole team in championship meets. However, the program has been trending upwards, and Albright has been a big part of that.
“The positive environment [we have here] is something I’m really proud of,” Albright said. “I’m really glad this is the team I’m leaving behind.”
Third-year head coach Ian Carter came into the track and field team when it was desperately needed for both Ruiz and Albright.
“Coach Carter came in and brought consistency,” Albright said. “It’s really nice to have a solid coach we know we can depend on and know that he is going to be there.”
Carter holds great optimism for Albright and sees her breaking under a minute for the 400-meter dash.
“I think it’s definitely possible,” Carter said. “If she doesn’t do it by this meet, she’ll definitely do it by outdoor season.”
As for Ruiz and Carter, who have spent the same amount of time on the track team together, their chemistry is unmatched. Carter has high hopes that in the NJAC championship meet, Ruiz will hit another impressive 800-meter time and contribute to the 400-meter relay team looking to hit close to the 3:30 minute mark.
“Sebastian is one of those people [that] once he’s mentally locked in, everything else falls into place,” Carter said.