With about 1,000 meters to the finish line, Capital High School’s Bella Torres took a wrong turn.
Even if she had run in the correct direction, it would have been tough to beat first-place Molly Fischer of Central Kitsap at the 3A South Sound Conference girls cross country championships on Wednesday at Fort Steilacoom Park in Steilacoom.
But the important part was that Torres rerouted herself, finishing with a personal-best time of 19 minutes, 17.5 seconds for second place and nearly stunning reigning 3A Narrows champion Fischer, who finished in 19:04.90.
You could say Torres also rerouted her life, joining the Capital cross country team her senior year after she said anorexia had prevented her from running either of the previous two years.
A heartfelt talk with her mom and grandparents helped her break through, Torres said.
“I had to separate myself from that to get what I wanted in life,” Torres said. “And now I want to help girls with their struggles and help them find a passion to better themselves and say that life is much better than having an eating disorder.”
Torres was beaming after the race. She hugged Fischer and basked in the opportunity of advancing to run in the Westside Classic next week, and maybe the state championships the week after that.
Capital finished third as a team with 53 points behind first-place Peninsula’s 31 points and Central Kitsap’s 48. The top six teams qualified for the Westside Classic at American Lake Golf Course on Oct. 29.
Torres was leading the first half of the race — by a wide margin at that.
But Fischer’s strength is her kick. And Torres knew that. Fischer closed the gap and Torres’ shot at a league title were all but lost when she turned the wrong way as the two runners closed in on the finish line.
Fischer’s time was her personal best.
“We knew Bella had a chance,” Capital coach Kevin Wright said. “We wanted to beat Molly, but if she is going to beat us, she was going to have to PR. Molly had to run her best to win and that’s all you can ask for.”
Torres last ran cross country her freshman year, before she said she moved to the state from Belen, New Mexico. She said her mom’s half marathons inspired her to get into running in the first place.
“Literally, the first day she walked into the school I was like, ‘So, cross country?’” Wright said.
All she needed was to get back on the right course.
“It’s really therapeutic for me,” Torres said of running. “And I have such a great group of girls, and they definitely support me and get me through my tough emotional times, because, of course, there are still going to be days where I’m in the wrong mindset.
“My best friend … she said, ‘Bella, what do you want in life? You want to be a good runner, you want to go to college.’ I really want that.”
CAPITAL BOYS TAKE 2ND
Bradley Peloquin took first place in 16:01.10 in the boys 3A South Sound Conference championship race and led Gig Harbor to a first-place team finish with 27 points to Capital’s 78.
North Thurston’s Tommy Johnson finished second individually in 16:14.80, Shelton’s William Johnson was fifth in 16:32.20 and Capital’s Tanner Stipic was sixth in 16:42.30.
OLYMPIA BOYS 2ND
In the 4A South Puget Sound League championships, Olympia’s boys team finished second with 105 points behind first-place Bellarmine Prep’s 22.
Bellarmine Prep’s girls team also won the league title.
The Bears were second as a team despite its top finisher, Tilahun Castro, taking 15th place in 16:38.20. Each of Olympia’s top four runners finished in less than 17 minutes.
“I haven’t been with a crew like this,” Olympia coach Jesse Stevick said. “Usually you get a couple of guys, but never like this — this deep.”
Olympia’s girls team placed fifth behind Kiersten Kimminau’s third-place individual finish in a personal-best 18:52.80.
“Usually this meet has not been the best to me,” Kimminau said. “I don’t have very good memories at Fort Steilacoom. But just the air and everything — it just felt super right today. I’ve just been working really hard for this.”
Bellarmine Prep’s Cameron Wyman was the boys champion in 15:25.20. Puyallup’s Rachel Kastama won the girls race in 18:30.40.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677