DALLAS — Toby Ruston ran 700 miles this summer.

That’s an average of 60 miles per week.

“I just ran every day,” he said. “I took breaks on Sundays.”

The hard work over summer vacation paid off for Ruston, a junior at Dallas High School: Not only has he cut his times down by over a minute from last year, he was also named District Champion at the Mid-Willamette Conference league district cross-country meet, clinching the 5,000-meter title in 15:36.10 for a personal record; as a team, the Dragons took second place at districts and earned a spot at the state cross-country meet.

There, Ruston landed on the podium in eighth place, clocking in at 15:45.90.

What Ruston expected going into this season came to fruition.

“I was really hoping the team would go to state, and once the season started, I had the goal to take district champ,” he said.

The district race at Crystal Lake Sports Park on Nov. 2 painted a picture of what it means to run your guts out: Ruston was behind a Crescent Valley runner until, all of a sudden, he wasn’t and he was sprinting toward the finish line in an all-out, last-ditch effort to nab that first-place finish.

“I was starting to give up at the end, I didn’t think I could do it the last mile,” Ruston said. “And, I don’t know, I really wanted to take district champion, so I gave it my all at the end.”

As far as the race at the state championships, he wasn’t entirely satisfied.

“Towards the end, at state, most of the team just had a rough race and I think that’s just because how close our district race was to state, so I don’t think we got as much recovery compared to some of the other teams at state,” he said.

Beyond that, he said he was happy with how the season went.

The Dragons cross-country team has gotten several nods from the community in the team’s obvious overall support of its members.

During a race at Bush Park in October, the varsity team made a pack around senior A.J. Shafer and ran with him for the entire 5,000-meter race to help pace him in his quest for a personal record, rallying and cheering him on throughout.

The connection the Dragons have is undeniable.

“We just have a really good bond as a team, and early on in the season, we do team-bondings and we all support each other,” Ruston said.

With cross-country over, Ruston is back to training — this time for track and field.

His coach writes up training plans for him and other members of the team to prepare them for the spring.

Between cross-country and track, Ruston says he likes cross-country the best.

“Track is more of an individual sport, and cross-country is mostly a team sport and it’s a lot more fun,” he said.

Still, he’s looking forward to being challenged with track in ways he isn’t in cross-country.

“I’m excited to see where I’m at,” he said.

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