Feb. 10, 2012
by Mark Janssen
OK K-Staters, here's a little test on current Wildcat greats.
You know that Erik Kynard of the K-State track and field team is the best high jumper in the nation, and you know that Collin Klein is one of the top QBs in the country.
But tell me what you know about K-State's Ricardo Cruz, who is also among the best in America at what he does.|
Need a hint?
How about, "Paper or plastic?"
Yup, a dead give-away to Cruz, who on Monday will not be in attendance for the K-State/KU game. Instead, Cruz will be participating in the National Grocers Association Bagging Championship at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
That's right, this K-State student and SID student assistant is among the best in America at distributing 30 articles of grocery items into three bags, where he is graded on speed, plus weight distribution.
It all makes him as recognized on campus as Rodney McGruder, Arthur Brown, or Klein, himself.
"Yeah, I'd say that," Cruz said, flashing a smile. "I'd say that Collin and I are at the same level on campus."
Cruz is having nothing but fun with his new-found talent that all started "... on a whim. I literally went in on a whim. I figured it wasn't going to cost me anything, so why not."
Working at the Westloop Dillons store since November of 2008, the Junction City native advanced through competition at his local store, then a district competition in Salina, which also included stores in Junction City and Salina, and then a five-person state competition that took place in Wichita, where he won by .01 points.
The competition included point totals given for speed, weight distribution, proper bagging technique, plus appearance, style and attitude.
"I got to state and people had family cheering sections and were really taking things seriously, which really surprised me. I was there just having a good time," said Cruz, who is in his third year as a student-assistant in K-State's sports information department. "I wasn't going to be stressed out. It's supposed to be fun."
Cruz said he'll take the same attitude into Las Vegas on Monday for the national competition where he will face 23 other baggers competing in five heats. The top five overall scores will then face off in a final round.
The key, says Cruz, "You can't overthink. When you think, you start to hesitate and then you have no chance."
Helping Cruz is what he calls a "photographic memory. When I see the collection of items I can immediately start formulating in my mind how I want to put them in the bag. The big thing is weight distribution that you're working with in the various bags."
Cruz, whose personal record is 32 seconds for getting the 30 random items distributed in three reusable bags, said he didn't practice much going into the initial competitions, but since qualifying for nationals he's been given 40 hours of work credit to practice for nationals. That 32-second clocking by the way would have won last year's national competition.
Cruz says he's taken some good-natured ribbing on his new-found frame with store colleagues saying, "They tell me that I'm going to be the new face of the store and the company (pause) but I'm not sure if I want to be the face of the company. I just want to have fun."
And, Cruz promises to continue to have fun with a variety of theatrics which will include ripping off tear-away K-State pants during the introductions, plus being attired in Kansas State clothing.
"I had a custom made No. 1 basketball jersey made with "Bag So Hard' printed on the back of it, plus will have a K-State headband and some other K-State things," said Cruz.
What would be really fun for Cruz is winning the grand prize of $10,000, plus a trip to New York City to appear on the "Late Show with David Lettermen." A $5,000 prize goes to the second-place finisher, and $1,000 prizes for placing third, fourth and fifth.
So could Cruz handle Letterman's wit? "Oh yeah."