Most people look at running as punishment.
Mess up a play on the field, you run a lap. You’re late to practice, run a lap.
But for Carlos Quinones, running has been the opposite.
“Let me tell you what running has done for me,” said Quinones as he stood on the sideline at the District 8-6A meet at Leo Buckley Stadium dressed in all maroon and Killeen across his chest.
He may be 55 years old now but running has given him everything — an education, a career, the ability to travel and his family. Running even gave Quinones his first car.
“Believe it or not,” he said, recounting a race in which the grand prize was a vehicle, “I won and got myself a car.”
Although he was born in Puerto Rico, Quinones has lived in Killeen since he was a year old, “Been here 54 years and I love it.”
Running allowed him to get a scholarship, where he attended school in Puerto Rico.
“Once I went off to college, I met my wife,” he said of meeting Nubia Medina, who also ran track on scholarship. “Then we had my daughter and then my son, so you get a family going.”
As a professional runner, Quinones was able make money and travel all over the world, including Germany, France and Spain.
But there is nowhere he loves more than Killeen.
“This is where I grew up — elementary school, middle school, high school — and the thing is, when you go around town, people know who you are,” he said. “They recognize you.”
Longtime residents of Killeen may recognize Quinones’ name. He still holds school and state records in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Back in 1982, Quinones was a running Kangaroo who ran the 3,200 in 9 minutes, 10 seconds.
One person he attributed his success to is longtime Killeen athletic trainer Al “Doc” Wilson.
“He was my trainer when I went to state.”
Quinones recalls the 110-degree day when he went to the University of Texas to run in the state meet.
That was the first year in which the two-mile event took place. The heat was so intense on the track that he remembers other runners just stopping mid-race.
“I just ran behind them,” Quinones recalled, “And when they said two more laps, I just took off running.
“I had the fastest time in the nation, I was able to pick up my legs and finish with a state record, but after that I had 30 seconds to recover because I ran the mile.”
As Wilson sat in his cart watching the district meet unfold, he thought back on Quinones’ record-setting state race.
“The boy could run,” Wilson said. “He ran like a deer.”
Said Quinones: “If it wasn’t for Doc Wilson, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Quinones went on to run the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 11 seconds and set another state record.
Mike Mosley, Quinones’ high school track coach, recently retired after 30 years of coaching. He noted that one of his greatest achievements was coaching Quinones.
“It was really great what he said after so many years,” Quinones said. “It was always Coach (Mosley) and Quinones going to regionals, going to state.
“It was always us two together.”
Only one Killeen student has ever come close to breaking his records, DreVan Anderson-Kappa.
“Of all the kids I coached, he was the one that got really close to my school records,” Quinones said. “He was really close to breaking my record in the 800 and he was just a little bit off on the mile too.”
ONCE A ROO, ALWAYS A ROO
Running has taken Quinones all over the globe as professional runner, but ask him his favorite place he’s ever run and he’ll say it’s Killeen.
When he first started practicing at the high school, he ran where the track still stands today, except it was black back then.
Back when Quinones was in junior high he ran the mile every morning in his first period athletics class. He ran the mile in 4 minutes, 58 seconds when he was in seventh grade.
Since Fairway Middle School didn’t have a track or cross country team, he was sent to Killeen High School to train with the high school runners.
Quinones has retired from coaching, but still teaches at Meadows Elementary School. He plans to retire soon, however he won’t stay away from the track too long.
“I’d like to come back and volunteer,” he said, noting he helped out with the pole vault event at district.
Toward the end of the district meet, Quinones stood in the middle of the field catching up with an old track friend, Sharon Nichols Polk.
They laughed, reminiscing of being on the team and how times have changed since they were in high school.
“This whole stadium would be full,” Polk said, noting how few people attend these days.
But the crowd’s volume grew as the boys 1,600 race was going and Shoemaker’s Jeremias Serrano pulled far ahead of the group.
Polk nodded toward the race and said, “That’s how Carlos used to run — far ahead of everyone else.”
Killeen, the city and high school, are his favorite places in the world, but it is on the track that Quinones feels the most at home.
“Running has given me a whole lot,” he said, watching the rest of the district races unfold. “I don’t know where I would be today without running because it seems like everything I’ve done in life, or achieved, came from running.”