Amber Ruiz-Bueno races to a degree at Tri-C
May 15, 2017
Amber Ruiz-Bueno hit her stride at Cuyahoga Community College.
The student-athlete blossomed into one of the nation’s top middle-distance runners during two years at Tri-C, earning All-American honors on the track while etching her name in the school’s record book.
The 20-year-old from Willowick achieved in the classroom, too, with a near-perfect GPA that resulted in Academic All-American recognition.
Ruiz-Bueno will graduate from Tri-C this month with an Associate of Arts degree. In the fall, she will continue her studies while running for Southern Illinois University, an NCAA Division I school that gave her a track scholarship.
“I never dreamed I would have that sort of opportunity to run in college,” Ruiz-Bueno said. “Tri-C made it possible because the people here believed in me. They saw something in me before I did.”
That line of believers starts with Don Cox, the College’s longtime track and cross country coach. Cox recruited Ruiz-Bueno out of Eastlake North High School in Lake County. He was the only coach who came and talked to her.
Ruiz-Bueno initially came to Tri-C to compete in the long jump but began putting in the training hours and miles to mold herself into an elite runner. Cox called her the biggest surprise of his coaching career.
“I’ve never had another athlete who improved so much over two years,” he said.
Her final run for Tri-C will take place at the upcoming NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Kansas. She qualified for the meet in the 800-meter run with the nation’s fourth-fastest time of the season.
The competition will keep her from walking across the stage at Tri-C’s Spring Commencement.
Ruiz-Bueno said her full-time class schedule at the College helped her narrow her career focus. She now wants to work in sports administration and plans to major in the subject at Southern Illinois.
She’d also like to coach someday, perhaps at Tri-C.
“The College did so much for me,” Ruiz-Bueno said. “I’d love to be part of giving that experience to someone else.”
Throughout the month, we will be highlighting members of this spring's Tri-C graduating class. Click here to read more of their stories.