Sports

Record-breaking Kingston sophomore track star leaves competitors with nowhere to run

Kingston High School distance runner Ruby Roberts won the 1600 state title. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Kingston High School distance runner Ruby Roberts won the 1600 state title.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — Ruby Roberts crossed the final two finish lines of her sophomore year high school track season in awe-inspiring and record-shattering style.

She’s Kingston High School’s first two-time state champion, for cross country and the 1600-meter, and proud owner of two impressive personal records.

When Roberts stepped onto the track to compete in the 2A state 1600-meter (one mile) run on Saturday at Mount Tahoma she didn’t think she’d do very well, place-wise.

The field was really strong and fast, she said.

The 16-year-old wanted to place in the top three, but because of the intense competition she redirected her goal to break five minutes — an ambition she’d strived for all season.

Roberts knew the exact lap split times she needed to run to topple the daunting five minute mark: lap one, 1 minute 45 seconds; lap two 2:30; lap three 3:45 and lap four, everything she had left.

She didn’t make it, as 3:47 had ticked off the clock after her third lap. She was two seconds behind.

“I thought ‘Oh geez, I have to go. I have to really push if I want this,’ ” Roberts said. “On the last lap I was thinking, ‘give it your all. This is the last race, you don’t have to save for anything else.’ ”

Roberts broke stride and kicked into high gear.

In the last lap she passed Shannon Porter of Hockinson. The two had run stride for stride the entire race. On May 23, Porter and Roberts ran side by side in the 3200, but that time Porter pulled ahead.

“Because she narrowly took second in the two mile, you could see she wanted to run that hard and not give anybody else a chance,” said coach Karla Laubach. “You could see her pull away and pull away. No way was she going to slow down, but you just keep yelling louder and louder because you think it’s going to help.”

Roberts hasn’t lost the 1600 since seventh grade.

She’s still undefeated.

Roberts crossed the line in first place, making her the first Kingston athlete to be crowned a state champion.

But more importantly to Roberts and her coaches, she ran the personal-record-setting race of her life.

She finished the mile in 4:59.76 seconds.

“The time was the thing I liked to hear the most,” she said.

Breaking five minutes in the mile is an accomplishment that very few Washington runners are capable of.

“Nobody in any other division other than Ruby and some 4A runners ran under five at state,” Labauch said. “That’s huge. I don’t even know how to describe how fast that is because I can’t even imagine running that fast and consistent. It’s just an amazing accomplishment.”

Coach Roger Coffman said breaking five minutes is so uncommon most coaches don’t get the opportunity to train an athlete who can run the mile that fast.

“It’s a big deal because you could probably spend your whole career coaching and if you’re lucky you end up with one kid that does something like that,” he said.

The rookie high school distance runner also did the unimaginable in the 3200 the day before.

She wanted to run the two-mile in less than 11 minutes.

Earlier in the season Roberts said she could break that barrier if she had strong competition to push her.

A state track meet is the perfect place to find the competition she needed, and that competition was Porter and Sequim’s Allison Cutting.

Roberts and Porter paced each other the entire race, while Cutting pushed Ruby from behind in the last lap.

Roberts placed second at state in the 3200, but once again her time was the ultimate reward.

She finished the race in 10:59.15.

“I was happy for the girl that was first (Porter) because she really helped push me, and the girl behind (Cutting) helped push me a lot,” she said. “I was just glad I got the chance to run with that group, partly because they really push the pace and they’re really nice.”

Roberts said her recent success at state means she’ll have to work a lot harder next year to maintain her times, and also because she expects more of herself now.

And although she’s just finished a running season she’s already preparing for cross country and to run the 3200 at the Golden West Invitational — the first national high school championship invitation-only meet — June 7 at Sacramento State University. The race was founded in the 1930s and more than 100 Olympians have competed there.

Roberts qualified for the B race and to do so she had to run the 3200 in less than 11:15. Instead she ran it nearly 16 seconds faster.

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