By Christian Ulrich, Sept. 20, 2022
After winning his first race at the Redlands Invitational on Sept. 3rd., Cal Poly Pomona cross-country runner Ricardo Vargas earned his first California Collegiate Athletic Association Runner of the Week award for the week of Aug. 29 through Sept. 4.
With temperatures approaching triple digits, Vargas finished the six-kilometer race with a time of 18 minutes and 35 seconds, earning him his first win. For Vargas, training for this race required commitment.
“We run every single day out of the year. We have been training for this season since late May, and it has taken a lot to get here. It takes 60 to 100 miles a week, gym work, double days where you work out in the morning for two hours, come back in the afternoon for another hour. It is like working a double job,” said Vargas.
Vargas’ work ethic did not go unnoticed. Alongside him every step of the way, his coaches praised his consistent mentality. Cross-country head coach Chris Bradford credited Vargas’ win to the runner’s intense preparation.
“He has been training with us at a pretty high level for the last 12 months, and he has been very consistent at a pretty high mileage, pushing 90-plus miles a week. He puts the time and effort in. Winning a race shows what you have been doing, a culmination of work put in,” said Bradford.
In addition, Bradford said the process of becoming an efficient long-distance runner is difficult. Vargas did not become an elite runner overnight, showing up to practice daily and challenging himself and his older peers daily.
For Vargas, cross-country wasn’t always the vision, as his passion for running began with soccer.
Vargas’ enthusiasm for soccer began at the age of four, playing until his senior year at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, California. Vargas felt that cross-country would be a great path to develop his stamina for soccer.
“My first year of cross country, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I didn’t attend practices, I wasn’t a committed athlete at that point, and I didn’t know anything about running. I would just show up on race day, get a uniform and go out and race,” said Vargas.
As Vargas transitioned into collegiate sports, cross-country running quickly became his new devotion.
Joining the Broncos last year as a redshirt freshman, Vargas trained with the team without participating in competition. Entering competition this year, Vargas felt he was still adjusting, even after his first victory.
Vargas mentioned that among his greatest challenges in attending CPP is being away from his family.
“I’m a family person and that is a struggle for me. Constantly being around strangers is still difficult, but I’m adjusting to life here, and it’s been great. I’m in a position where I feel like I can be myself,” said Vargas.
For any student, juggling schoolwork and other responsibilities can be difficult, but running 60 to 100 miles a week on top of classes might sound frightening. For Vargas, it was all about consistency and scheduling to manage each facet of his life.
“You have to schedule everything and at the end of the day. If you keep at it, it becomes easier. As long as you make it to class you will be OK. Our coaches are on top of us. They play a crucial part in making sure we are students first,” said Vargas.
Recovery from the grueling demands of running tens of miles per week is necessary. For Vargas, when not out in the hills, he enjoys learning and spending time with the people that mean the most to him: his family, friends and teammates.
“I enjoy learning about nutrition and reading, learning about the body and mind as well. I enjoy socializing and being with friends and teammates. I like to take some time to decompress at the end of the day and to call my family. It allows me to maintain a healthy mindset,” said Vargas.
Looking to obtain his master’s in nutrition and dietetics upon graduation, Vargas also hopes to continue running down the line.
“I see myself pursuing cross-country at a higher level. I’m not sure how high I will go, but when I graduate, I hope to have my master’s, and I still see myself running at a high level hopefully,” said Vargas.
Vargas looks to continue his excellence in the Cougar Challenge at Cal State San Marcos on Sept. 24.
Feature Image Courtesy of Ricardo Vargas
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