In the jittery moments before runners were instructed to take to their marks in their starting blocks, Jonah Vigil crouched over a faded, white “3” and bowed his head, exposing his nape to the blazing midafternoon sun. In his assigned lane, the junior closed his eyes and sat motionless – his elbows resting on his knees and his hands held open and loose.
Soon, nothing about his body would be motionless or resting or loose. The pop from the starter's gun would send him and seven others on their way, racing once around the weather-beaten pad of the University of New Mexico track.
To his right, and slightly ahead of him in lane “4” was his fierce opponent: Brandon Chavez from Silver City, who had won this event twice – in 2015 and 2016 – but lost to Vigil by a mere four one-hundredths of a second in 2017. To Vigil's left, and slightly ahead of him was his other nemesis: the official time clock on the jumbo screen.
And, at exactly 2:09 p.m., Vigil exploded off his blocks and planted the first step towards achieving his 2018 goals in the pivotal 400-meter dash. His three-pronged quest? Defend his title, beat Chavez and break the state record (48.30 seconds) in this event.
Based on results from his on-track (live, outdoor competitions) performances this year, Vigil is convincingly, the fastest athlete to ever run a race in the history of Taos. With his dominating sweep in the dashes at state this year, an argument could be made about his prowess in the whole of New Mexico. Specifically, though, it’s the 400-meter race that has prompted the debate as Vigil has throttled the records in this event in every class twice thus far.
The first time was April 16 at the Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions in Albuquerque. Vigil went up against the top eight sprinters in the state and won the singular heat with a time of 46.99 seconds, shattering the previous record of 48.25 seconds held by Bobby Newcombe from Highland (Albuquerque) High School set in 1997.
Consequently, no other runner in New Mexico had ever been recognized for breaking the 47-second barrier. Before Vigil’s feat, the record in the 400 in the state was set by Abram Schaap from Volcano Vista who recorded a time of 47.43 seconds in 2016. Unfortunately, the impressive time was not counted in the state’s record books because it did not occur during the state track and field meet.
The second time Vigil broke the state record, it did count. And it will go into the record books.
During his preliminary race on May 11, the dashing young Taoseño completed his one-lap race with a time of 47.01 seconds, breaking the 4A state record held by Sean King from Oñate (Las Cruces) High School since 1991. The following day, Vigil emerged from his peaceful, prerace trance and beat Chavez with a time of 47.59 seconds (still a record) and kept his crown in this event. Mission accomplished on all fronts.
Nothing but gold
Vigil also competed in the 100-meter dash where he battled head winds to win with a time of 11.05 seconds. He also claimed the top spot in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.07 seconds and first place in the long jump with a personal best distance of 23 feet, 2.75 inches.
His participation in the boys 4x100 relay team helped garner a first in that event as well with a time of 43.71 seconds, a school record, and a share of the relay team's 10 points for himself. On the weekend, Vigil accumulated a total of 30.5 points and was named the “High Point Male Athlete” for Class 4A, another title he defended after winning the distinction in 2017 with a personal haul of 26.5 points.
High point female
In similar fashion, Faith Powell posted some impressive numbers of her own. Powell was recognized as the “High Point Female Athlete” with the 28 points she brought in for the champion Lady Tigers
Continually improving throughout the season, the junior saved her best for last and improved her distances in both the long jump and the triple jump at the state meet. In the long jump, Powell added nearly 8 inches to her previous best distance with a leap of 18 feet, 5.5 inches – just missing the 4A state record by a mere 1.25 inches – May 11. The following day, she out-jumped the field by more than a foot to earn the triple jump title by recording a distance of 37 feet, 11.5 inches.
Powell's third first place medal was earned in the high jump, where she cruised to victory with a height of 5 feet, 4 inches: her fourth straight state title in this event. Her two runner-up finishes occurred in the 200-meter dash, where she was edged out by Morgan Johnson from Ruidoso by just under five-tenths of a second with a time of 26.80 seconds, and in the girls 4x200-meter relay, where the team earned a time of 1:47.05 and set a new school record.
On the map
With the conclusion of another sports season and the closing of another chapter in the history of Taos Tiger athletics, a statement has been declared. Taos has the finest track and field athletes, and several state records are dangerously close to being broken.
So, get the brooms ready Taos fans. Both these athletes will be back next year.