June 27, 2012
By P.J. Brown
However, to everyone around him, it became apparent that he should try track because at the end of games when everyone else was tired, he was still hustling. He was fast and had good endurance.
Finally, during the summer between eighth grade and high school, he tried. In his first race, at an all-comers track meet, he finished third in a 40-meter race.
"It was exhilarating," said David Torrence. "My competitive nature was spoken to. In team sports, you are not in control ... the way a tennis ball bounces, the conditions, etc. In track and field, you are in control, win or lose. I love that about track.
"It wasn't until I won my first race," he continued, "that it completely hooked me. That moment, when I went across the finish line ... I thought, that's a special thing and I want to do this."
That's how he started, and now Torrence is one of the elite runners in the world, with his specialty being the 1500-meter race. He also runs the 800m and 5000m.
The Olympics weren't even in his sights until the end of his freshman year at Cal.
"I went to Loyola High School in Southern California, which has a very competitive and strong program," said Torrence. "After four years of hard work, I finished third in state - the pinnacle of my career at that point. I was proud of it. But all that work for just third in California? The Olympic level was so far out of reach. I was happy to just run and get a scholarship - my way of giving back to my parents. I would be the first in my family to go to college."
He enjoyed immediate success at Cal under track & field head coach Tony Sandoval, advancing to the 2004 IAAF World Junior Championships where he set a Cal freshman record and the U.S. World Junior Championship meet record time of 3:43.62 to place eighth overall.
"In my first meeting with Tony Sandoval, I said I wanted to be a team player and do my best," Torrence said. "But I blossomed under the program. I was fitter and faster. I made the World Junior Championship team and was one of the best juniors. I thought maybe there is something to this. Maybe I can compete with these guys on this level. That's when I started thinking about the Olympics."
As a junior in 2007, David broke Don Bowen's 50-year school record in the mile with a time of 3:58.62.
And he has just kept moving forward since. Coming into this Olympic year, Torrence seems to be peaking at the right time. At the Occidental High Performance Meet in Los Angeles, he ran the 1500 meters in 3:35.41 to achieve the Olympic "A" standard.
His training has remained steady with nothing new introduced.
"I haven't changed anything," Torrence said. "Three years ago, I started with a new coach, John Cook, who is a Pro Nike Coach. I got a lot better. We're doing the same things this year. I've seen people who think they need to do something new to get ready and that's when they get hurt - do too much or too little. I've seen it happen. So, I'm doing what's been working. I have trust in my coach, my training and his experience. Trying to change something in an Olympic year can often lead to failure. I'm working hard to give myself the best chance possible."
Torrence explained his workout with Cook and how it helps him prepare for the Olympic trials.
"We focus on general fitness and do varied training and switch it up," Torrence said. "As a 1500-meter, runner I'm in the middle [of the 800m and 5000m races], so it's easy to go up and down without too much specific work. We get more specific for a certain race or a series."
The strategy of running a 1500-meter race is quite different from running the 100-meter dash or a marathon.
"In a 100-meter dash, you are just pushing and in a marathon, what an athlete pictures is more methodical, more about the pack in front of you," Torrence said. "1500 meters is the sweet spot. It's like a chess match. Drafting plays a huge role. I think about splits - how fast we are going - and I notice the people around me, who is anxious and who is relaxed."
And at the end of the race, runners must not only be in position for a big kick, but also have the energy to exert the extra effort.
"I analyze more, but allow my instincts to take over," Torrence said. "I have to feel the move. This gives me the best chance to win the race. In the end, I think about a lot of things. But listening to my gut will allow me to make the team and represent the United States."
When not focusing on his training, Torrence spends his time working with the Bay Area Track Club, a group he co-founded in 2009 with other current and former elite athletes from the Bay Area. The co-founders include Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (Cal alum and 2008 Olympian in the marathon), Shannon Rowbury (2008 Olympian, and Bolota Asmerom (Cal alum and 2000 Olympian in the 5000m).
They banded together to help and support each other and give back to the community.
"We had all these elite athletes in the Bay Area and no structure, no group," Torrence said. "Now people in the Bay Area have a track club to root for and we can reach a wider audience through after-school programs, high school track clinics ... with speed and explosiveness drills, and clinics for adults for marathon training, etc. We work with each other to give back to the community. We hope to be a permanent fixture in the running community in the Bay Area and nationally to compete against other track clubs and hopefully be a powerhouse in turning out elite athletes."
One of the programs they run for youth is BATC Kids to get children outside and active after school. They are inspiring kids to keep healthy by helping improve speed, agility, coordination, strength and flexibility. Currently, they are working with Yick Wo Elementary School in San Francisco and Chabot Elementary School in Oakland.
"It's a challenge to run this [Bay Area Track Club]," he continued. "It is run primarily by the founders. It's tough to help the club and our own athletic careers. We have to time manage and make sacrifices to keep it going. What we give up in time and our emotional energy and other energy, we get back way more in the existence of the club and the team atmosphere. As an individual athlete, when you are out there together all suffering with common goals, it makes the hard work that much easier."
He shares this passion with his teammates who have each devoted their time to help the Bay Area Track Club be as successful as it is today.
"Athletes like Bolota, Shannon and me are all chasing the dream to represent the United States and compete against the best. It's a dream worth pursuing and the club helps us do it. It provides support so we can chase that dream. We want to share this powerful opportunity."