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Torrington cross country stars Gabby Vega and Ariana Santos, Friends to the Finish.

POSTED November 14, 2016
BY John Torsiello
Twitter: @theaposition

By, JOHN TORSIELLO Sport breeds camaraderie and sometimes leads to friendships that last years and even a lifetime.

Your teammates often become more like family than other competitors. That’s the way it was this season for the Torrington High School girls’ cross-country squad

“Our team isn't a team, we are a family,” said Gabrielle Vega. “I feel like this year in particular we really got closer. We had pasta dinners throughout the season where most or all of the team came. We really bonded this year, not only as a team, we came together as friends.

Ariana Santos echoed those sentiments. “We all got super close and I didn't have a problem with any of my teammates. This year’s team was more of a family rather than just a team.”

Two of the closest friends on the team are Santos, a junior, and Vega, a senior. They met when Santos was a freshman and have pushed one another to become better runners, sometimes training together and going on long endurance runs.

“I met Ariana when she came in as a freshman and I was a sophomore,” said Vega. “We didn't really become close until the next year. We definitely push each other during and off-season. Over the summer we got together and ran a couple times, as well as in between cross-country and track. It is really nice having a fellow teammate and friend who has similar times and endurance as you.”

Said Santos, “Gabby and I have grown closer as the years have gone by and we do like to push each other to become better runners.”

Both enjoyed a successful season. Santos came in seventh (third in the Iron Division) and Vega eighth (fourth in the Iron division) in the overall Naugatuck Valley League meet standings, earning All-NVL honors and helping their team finish fifth overall. Vega was 14th and Santos 15th at the Class MM state meet.

THS girls head coach Drake Waldron said of his two stars, “Gabby has been a top runner for our team the past four years; she’s a great competitor, hard worker, and outstanding student and musician. Ariana has been the number runner on our team for the last two years. Both are great role models for others.”

Vega began running in eighth grade when she ran a mile for a physical fitness test. “There was not a track or cross-country team where I went to middle school, so I decided I wanted to start running as a hobby. The first race I ever did was the Kent Pumpkin Run, which was five miles.”

Vega said what she likes most about cross-country running is that it is “different from other sports because it doesn't only focus on how good the team is, but it's also an individual sport. I like making goals for myself and trying to beat my own time while still helping my team. I am definitely more of a distance runner. I have more endurance than other people, although I lack the speed that some distance runners have.”

She said her favorite moment as a cross-country running was when she finally hit her goal of breaking 20 minutes for a 5-K course. “I knew coming into my last season of cross-country that I wanted to beat 20 minutes. So finally doing that was the best feeling.”

As for what she is working on to improve as a runner she said, “I want to learn to pace myself throughout each race. I never learned how to pace myself, so I try to watch what the other teams do during the race and work on that.”

Santos began running in middle school. “What I like about cross-country is how I'm able to run through woods and fields instead of just on a track. I feel like my strengths include endurance and being able to push myself when I need to. As a cross-country runner, my best moment was coming in first in a race for the first time. As for the future, I am working to improve on getting my times down and placing higher.”

While Vega will be moving on after this school year she’ll probably stop by Torrington High next fall to see how her buddy, Santos, is faring during her senior season. That’s the way it is with close teammates. You never forget.

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