Luis Torres: A Lifetime of Devotion
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Politics and Activism

Luis Torres: A Lifetime of Devotion

For an entire lifetime, he has devoted himself to people, especially his family.

Luis Torres: A Lifetime of Devotion
Luis Torres

On a chilly Sunday morning, my teammate Luis Torres and I were assigned to do a progressive long run at Kennesaw State Park--a run where we speed up gradually the second part of the run. But anyone who has ever done a “progression” with me knows how I like to do it – balls to the wall, 90% effort right away, maintaining it all the way to the finish. Luis will say, “Ryan was doing it to impress the women’s team,” an accusation I fervently deny. He did tell me to “chill, bro,” a piece of advice I refused to follow.

But about three-quarters of the way through my way of a “progression,” I noticed a shift in Luis’s form and cadence, and we reached a half mile long steep hill. Once we reached the hill, I was gearing up for an even larger shift in pace. 10 seconds later, however, Luis dropped me and had already put around 20 meters on me as we barely even started the hill. Thirty seconds later, I could barely see him.

Luis, however, wouldn’t let himself wipe me off the face of the Earth like that. He started running down the hill, and encouraged me to run with him, and stay with him through the rest of the hill. I very much appreciated his “no man left behind” gesture, but my legs were effectively broken and I could not move any faster than 8 minute mile pace up the hill. I was so aerobically spent from my reckless pacing that I couldn’t even speak. I waved my arm forward to Luis, signaling him to just leave me behind. He wouldn’t leave, so I attempted to gesture him even more frantically, and I finally saw my freshman mentee go on to do greater things as I suffered from poor instincts and decision making.

Luis’s attitude of “no man left behind” shows a devotion not only to his teammates at Emory University, but also to other things important in his life, like his family and his religion. Before he was born, Luis’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, where they settled down in Portland. While in the Portland, his mother gave birth to him and his three siblings.

Luis is a first generation Mexican-American. Now, he is going into his sophomore year at Emory University as an integral member of the Cross Country Team. But the early stages of Luis’s life were not the smoothest.

“My father was a part of a Mexican cartel. When I was 5, he passed away from a heroin overdose,” Luis said, “My mother went through a rough phase in life and was incarcerated for a few years. My older sister took care of me when nothing made sense, especially with my mom gone, and my aunt and uncle took in myself and my siblings as my own."

I reached out to Luis a few days ago as possibly being the subject of my next feature because of who he was as a teammate--always calm, friendly, and poised. Even after the interview, he told me to "stop being such a hardo" after I was afflicted with some obscenely bad sunburn. But I had known Luis for an entire year, and not known these details about his life. I ran with him and chilled with him every day, unaware of what he and his family had to go through growing up. I didn't know the depths of his struggle, and yet every day, he is still calm, smiling, and at the end of the day, mature in how he handles things.

If there's one word to truly describe Luis, from every person that meets him, it is that: mature. He stayed at our house for a couple days after having to move out of his dorm, and Luis worked 16 hour days to do one thing - buy something nice for his mom on Mother's Day.

For the few days after the semester ended, he had a paper to write and a job to work, but he still ended up waking up early on a Monday morning with me to go to graduation for the seniors on our team. He knew what we were in for - bad seats, terribly hot weather, and an extremely boring ceremony. To accentuate that, we had to wait for 1200 names to be called, and selectively hear for our 10 friends. Usually, only family will attend something as boring as graduation, but to me and to Luis, that's what these guys were - family.

After about two hours, I looked over and saw him dozing off. He'd worked multiple 16 hour shifts, and I'd helped him edit the paper. The fact that he even made it there just showed how much he cared.

However, one of our teammates was just called to receive his diploma.

"Michael McBane," the professor said.

"Bro," I punched Luis on the shoulder to get him up, and then we made a scene and screamed raucously for our friend. The process would repeat itself several more times, until the ceremony finished and we realized we wasted half our day at graduation, but looking back, we were both glad we did what we did.

Luis's dedication to the people in his life - whether his family or his team, is something for all of us to emulate.

"Loving God and loving others is the greatest social justice I can do," he said. When he talked about his progress in his social justice, he replied with a very mature response, saying that, "It's a daily process that's gonna take a lifetime to get down."

Luis converted to Christianity in his early childhood, after his mother came back home, and ever since, it has been a large part of his life.

"When my mother returned to us, she wasn't the same as before," he said. "We learned that she had been attending church and had placed her faith in Jesus Christ."

In reference to his earliest religious activities, he recounted that he and his siblings "started going to church with her and I eventually found myself also wanting to follow this Jesus man."

"My older siblings subscribed to a different lifestyle," he continued. "Since then I've been pursuing God's heart, which most recently led me to Emory University."

It's quite striking how much Luis cares about God, Christianity, and his family when you're around him. With the help of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he created a Bible study for our team every Thursday after practice and leads it every week that I go to occasionally. Every Sunday, while I work at the gym, I see Luis leading a new group of people to go to church. At home, in Portland, Luis has engaged in hundreds, if not thousands of hours of community service to help the homeless population.

At the end of the day, Luis will always go out of the way to help the people important to him. What I didn't mention was one day after he worked 16 hours, I asked him what he was going to spend his money on. He fired back at me immediately, with no hesitation, "I'm giving it to my mom." It was as if it never crossed his mind to spend that money on himself.

Although not having declared a major yet, Luis currently wants to join Teach for America after graduating. "My decision was inspired by Michael McBane and Kyle Veator," two of our teammates who will devote the next two years of their life to the program.

I know Luis through running on the Cross Country team, and as a runner, he is beyond talented. In only his first year at Emory, he broke the freshman school record for the 8 kilometer race, running the equivalent to 25:24 at the Rowan Invitational. Although he struggled with a shin injury that left him unable to run for most of the latter part of the season, Luis was a crucial part to why we made the Division III National Championships - despite getting third and not an automatic qualifier at Regionals.

He was a mystery coming onto our team. After all, we fill out logs of our mileage on Google Documents, and Luis at the time was the only member of our team that didn't have a computer to do it. Since he didn't use Facebook, we heard nothing from him, and just didn't know who he was.

That was until Luis came onto the team, killing some of the workouts we had to begin the season. He always ran patient, and ran smart. By the end of the year, Luis ran 32:15 in the 10000 meters, running the second best freshman time in Emory history (behind his teammate, Marty Pimentel), and more importantly, kicking my ass.

Since I've joined Luis's training group and often run with him every day, our workouts and runs often go something like this - I push the pace and run faster than necessary for absolutely no reason, and Luis tells me "chill, bro." I pay for it at the end, like I did on that one run I mentioned in the beginning of the article - and he will smoke me at the end, while annoyingly trying to encourage me to keep up with him.

But despite an obviously very impressive running repertoire, Luis is not arrogant about the sport. In fact, I believe it blasphemous to even put the words "Luis" and "arrogant" in the same sentence. He was never visibly upset while injured, and never too down about any races he thought he underperformed in. He is extremely grateful to the sport as a matter of fact, saying that it "opened up a lot of opportunities in my life, including going to Emory."

He even went as far to say that running "helped keep me off the streets," and throwing a bone to our team, said that "running provided me with a good crew to ride with - they're normally the smart kids in school."

But it's not running at the forefront of Luis's mind, day in and day out. Although an athlete, he's more than that - just a pretty decent person. For an entire lifetime, he has devoted himself to people, especially his family.

"The most important service is that which I offer my family," Luis said. "There's a lot of brokenness found in us, but there's hope for the future."

He made sure to mention each member of his family, and how he wants to help

"I have four nephews and one niece who are among the brightest of their peers and I'm hoping to set a good example for them."

"My younger brother is also looking to pursue athletics and a college degree."

"My older brother is still doing his thing, but I know he'd be willing to join me in any business ventures in the future."

"As for my mother, although she has found herself at a dead end in life because of the lack of mobility in the American system, I am optimistic that it won't be so for much longer."

"Momma," Luis finished, "We made it."

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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