Luis Vargas stood on the LaVern Championship Cross Country Course in Indiana Saturday, Nov. 22 ready to make history by becoming the first Elon University athlete in his sport to earn All-American honors. Although Vargas had won each of his six previous races, he needed to place in the top 40 to make school history.
After 30 minutes and 45 seconds, he heard his supporters chant “fuego, fuego, fuego,” as he crossed the finish line. Vargas held his head high when he realized that he had accomplished what no other Elon men’s cross country runner had; he placed 25th in the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Championships, garnering All-American honors.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to do something great at a national level and be able to show people there that Elon has athletes that can compete at that level,” Vargas said.
Vargas tried his best to remain as focused as possible leading up to the NCAA Championships, but felt emotional after his coach showed him a video before the race in which several Elon teams wished him good luck.
“I got a lot of support from other [Elon] teams,” Vargas said. “Once my coach showed me that
the day before my race, that pumped me up so much knowing that I had that support from the Elon community in general.”
Vargas got off to a quick start during the 10K event and sat in 11th place through the first 3,000 meters. But by the 8,000-meter split, he fell to 38th. As he approached the final 2,000 meters he hustled with all his might to crack the top-30.
Midway through the season, Elon head cross country coach Nick Polk said Vargas was the best male athlete he’s ever coached. According to Polk, Vargas’ modesty, strong work ethic, and passion make him a force not to be reckoned with.
Vargas’s stellar All-American performance reflects a season of near perfection. He finished first in all of his six meets leading up to the NCAA Championships. He claimed the Southeast Regional Championship. He earned four CAA Men’s Runner of the Week accolades. Vargas was simply on fire.
Next on tap for the All-American: track season.
“I definitely celebrated [my performance in the championships], but I know there’s still more I have to do in track season,” Vargas said. “[I hope to] get some redemption, beat some more people, hopefully compete at a national level again, and represent Elon as well as I did.”