Cross Country is One Hill of a Sport for Rebecca Ruiz

Denae Ayala, Staff Reporter

It was Rebecca Ruiz’s freshman year of high school when she first fell in love with cross country. Running and racing have helped her learn to push her limits and strengthen her mind. 

In 2017, Ruiz was attending Mt. San Antonio College, where she was part of the team that won the community college cross country state championship. She had a personal record of 17:48 over 5,000 meters. Ruiz followed up this victory in 2018 and 2019 as the 10,000 meter champion and the runner-up in the 5,000 meters in track and field in 2019. 

At Cal State LA, Ruiz won her first race as a part of an NCAA Division II team.

“This was a huge honor because a Cal State LA runner had not won a cross country race since 2013, and I improved my personal best time. I was also recognized as the CCAA Runner of week earlier this season and as an athlete of the week in the same week,” she said.

Not giving up and consistency are what Ruiz describes as her main strengths within cross country. Consistency allows her to stay relaxed during a race, and to “race smart.” Persistence allows her to finish the race strong when the going gets tough. “Being consistent means having self-control when it comes to training and racing, and mastering my pace and racing strategy.”

Even the best athletes have weaknesses. Ruiz struggles to make sure she takes care of the little things such as eating right, getting enough sleep, and recovering properly. “Just as it is important to train, it is equally important to recover. Sometimes I fall short on these things, but I try my best not to,” she said. 

Cross country is not just a sport for Ruiz. She said it’s a significant part of who she is and she is proud to be excelling in something she is so passionate about: “It has had such a positive impact on my life. It keeps me sane and happy and I am blessed by all the wonderful people that this sport has allowed me to encounter.”

Cross country hasn’t just brought her championships, it has created friendships that Ruiz will cherish for the rest of her life.

Aside from running, Ruiz is a food fanatic and is always excited to try new restaurants, especially BBQ and Italian cuisine. She values quality time spent with family and friends. She has a 15-year-old brother named Erik and is the daughter of Lorenzo Ruiz and Gabriela Rivas.

Rivas enjoys watching her daughter run. “I truly admire and respect all she has accomplished in her running career and above all her humility. My daughter has a lot of heart and works hard to get it done.”

Ruiz, her father, is also a huge supporter: “She believes in the process in the good times and the bad times, and it helps that she’s had amazing coaches along the way.”

One of those coaches is Andres de la Cruz, assistant coach for the cross country and track and field programs.

“She is very coachable and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. She is one of the smartest racers that I’ve ever had the privilege to coach, and she has been very successful running here at Cal State LA,” said de la Cruz. 

He looks forward to many great things from Ruiz as she leads the way for a very young cross country team at Cal State LA. 

Ruiz is majoring in natural sciences with an emphasis in health, and she is hoping to apply to the nursing program in a few years to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is hoping to end up in a maternal/baby care unit or in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit once she becomes a nurse. 

Ruiz sums her personality up in just three words: quiet, sweet and sassy.