The Taos News sat down with Jonah Vigil, one of the strongest New Mexico runners ever, to talk about his senior year and his plans for the future.
All anyone can ask
To do one’s best is all that anyone can ask of a person in this world, and that’s exactly what Jonah Vigil has done.
As of the Great Southwest Classic Saturday (June 8), Vigil has set personal records in every one of his track events this year – including the 400 meters. He’d ended the regular season without a new personal best in his signature race, but he ran a 46.43 at the Great Southwest.
“I just can’t thank my coaches enough, Mitch and Ernie. They’ve done so much for me,” Vigil said.
Vigil is headed to Adams State University in Colorado in August. Miranda Vigil, his sister, just graduated from there and is returning to Taos for a year. “So, we’re switching places,” Jonah Vigil said.
He’s already been to Adams State a few times and met people. That comfort “helped me make my decision, too. I knew everyone there and the coach is really nice,” Vigil said. “He makes you work on yourself.”
“The coach mostly bases the team off family. Everyone hangs out together and gets really close.”
On the track
At the state track meet, Vigil took home the gold medal in every event in which he competed, bringing his total to 26 career state track medals. He was again the Class 4A High Point Male Athlete with 30.5 points.
His personal record in the 100-meter dash, set at the Class 4A state track meet May 18, is also the new state record: 10.51 seconds – only .01 seconds away from the fastest time ever run at a high school state track meet in New Mexico. (That record belongs to Bobby Newcombe from 1997 and was tied by Class 6A runner Jordan Byrd in 2018.)
In the 200 meters, Vigil also ran a personal best at state with a time of 21.30 seconds – his time beat the 5A record of 21.53 but just missed the 4A record of 21.20.
After the season, Vigil reflected, “I’m most proud of PRing. I really worked my butt off this summer and this season to PR.”
In the open 400-meter race at state, Vigil ran 47.75. His record from last year is 46.99.
“There’s no one to chase in the open,” Vigil laughed. As the anchor leg of the 4 x 400-meter relay, however, Vigil took the baton at least 10 meters behind the Albuquerque Academy anchor. Vigil ran a brilliant race, helping his team – Abdul Khweis, Missael Hermosillo and Jonathan Garcia – to set a new state record of 3:19.44. His split was probably in the mid-46’s, but splits aren’t official times.
It’s natural to wonder what sets premier athletes apart from talented ones. The answer often seems to be in their minds.
Mindset of a champion
After winning the long jump and setting the Class 4A state record in the 100, Vigil and the other 200-meter finalists walked in their lanes down the backstretch to set up in their blocks. The announcers drew the crowd’s attention to Vigil, saying, “We’re hoping we’ll get another record from Jonah in the 200.”
When asked if he heard the announcers, Vigil said, “Nah. I just block out everything and focus on finishing.”
Before the focus comes the pump. “When I’m warming up I listen to pumping music,” he said. “Mostly heavy metal and stuff. Like Slipknot.”
Rather than orient himself toward the expectations that other people had of him, Vigil focused on what he knew he needed to do to improve; namely, to get out of the blocks faster.
He trained in order to decrease his reaction time to auditory stimuli using tapping exercises he found online. The work showed in his 100 and 200 races, though his 400, while still championship material, had him stumped.
People “expected me to go 46 low this year, but I just couldn’t run the same as last year. I’ve been trying to figure out how I ran last year. But I don’t know. Can’t figure it out.”
Between the time of our interview with Vigil and the Great Southwest Classic meet, he did figure it out.
Mental training – a family affair
Although Jonah doesn’t get to Adams State until August, the program is already having an impact on his life through his sister, Miranda.
Miranda hadn’t yet bested her high school times in college, and it was shaking her confidence. Jonah explained that her coach told her to work on herself mentally, and “once she started focusing on herself and getting her head straight she started PRing – she almost made it to nationals this year.”
His sister shared some of her newfound resources with Jonah.
“My sister always sends me motivational speeches to listen to. Last year at the Río Rancho meet I was listening to one and I PR’d by a bunch and I was like ‘I’m going to start listening more.’”
For readers who would like to add them to their own personal playlist, the creator is Fearless Motivation.
“The day before a meet I’ll go down to the track – me, Faith and Abby, all three of us – we’ll go down to the track and sit in our own corners and listen to that. Focus up.”
The trio would sit, not talking to each other, just doing the same thing individually.
The night before or the day of, Vigil visualizes himself “getting out fast” and winning. “And just like, not dying, on the 4.”
When he gets to the race, visualizing keeps him calm. “If I go into a race and I’m rushed or anything I start freaking out a little bit. That’s what happened last year at the Great Southwest, and I took, like, fifth place in my heat or something like that.”
This year, Vigil’s mental training paid off.
Someone to chase
The Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque is a showcase of regional and national talent, drawing high school athletes and 2019 graduates from as far away as Florida.
“Texas will bring Matthew Boling – the fastest kid in the nation right now, so I asked my coach if I could run the 100 so I could race him,” Vigil said. Boling ran a wind-aided 9.98 in the 100 meters earlier this season.
In the 100, Vigil ran a 10.64 – only four hundredths of a second off the state record he broke May 18. He didn’t get to race in the same heat as Boling.
When the time came for the 400, however, he had a chance to unfurl his wings. The top five fastest times in the event were all in Vigil’s heat – including the new meet record of 44.84 seconds run by Justin Robinson of Hazelwood East High School in Florida.
Vigil ran his best time ever. A 46.43. It seems likely that Vigil will blossom in college.
For now, it’s time to prepare for New Balance Nationals June 13-16 in North Carolina.
As fans of Fearless Motivation know, real commitment to being one’s best requires sacrifice. For Vigil, one example includes a trip on a cruise, offered by his aunt. “Yeah, I told my Auntie that I wasn’t going on the cruise; I was going to nationals,” he said.
Aspirations for next year
In addition to his impressive track career, Vigil was also a starting midfielder on the Taos Tigers soccer team. Though he doesn’t plan to play soccer in college, he otherwise hopes that next year he does the “same as this year.”
“I just want to PR. To keep improving on my times. Hopefully I can make it to nationals and get a first at nationals or place at nationals, at least.”
Advice for younger athletes
Vigil’s suggestion for younger athletes is: “Just really focus and don’t be messing around. It’s all about your mentality and how you look at things.”
Though he wished he’d known sooner that there’s club track in Albuquerque, he also urged other athletes to remember that, “It isn’t all about sports.” Excelling in school is an equally important part of being a student athlete.
A perfect ending
Big moments carry big expectations. Vigil was able to close his high school track career under the best possible circumstances.
“Before the 4 by 4 we got in a circle and gave a prayer to help us stay strong and get through it. It got kinda emotional at the end. Senior year, last race of my career, me and Jonathan’s. Missael and Adrian and everyone started crying a little bit and they got to me a little bit and I was like ‘Oh no! We gotta run! We can’t be crying and stuff.”
“So, when I was walking onto the track I was tearing up already. I think that’s what made me finish harder. I knew I had to do it for my team.”
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