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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Flaws, Family, Focus revive Carlos Villarreal

Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics
December 10, 2016. Freshman Carlos Villareal during the Winter All-Comers meet. Drachman Stadium, Tucson, AZ.

Distance running is more than just a race to Arizona track and field athlete Carlos Villarreal. To Villarreal, a redshirt sophomore, it’s a lifestyle. 

After moving to the United States from Mexico when he was just 6 years old, Villarreal began playing a variety of different sports. After gradually improving on the basketball court, he realized that perhaps there was another activity that he could participate in that might yield better results. 

Villarreal was later introduced to distance running, where he finally discovered his passion. 

“I got my first taste of victory, and I was like wow this feels incredible. I need to feel this again,” Villarreal said. 

Eventually, Villarreal’s family recognized his natural talent and began to support his endeavors on the track. It wasn’t long before success followed.

As a senior at Rio Rico High School , Villarreal was awarded the Southern Arizona Cross Country and Track Runner of the Year . He was also the recipient of several state honors from Gatorade. Villarreal finished his high school career holding school records in five events, as well as the state record in the 1600-meter with a time of 4:03.97 . Wanting to stay relatively close to his home, and his family back in Mexico, Villarreal committed to spend his next journey as a Wildcat. 

Villarreal’s time at Arizona hasn’t always been an easy journey, but that hasn’t stopped him from rising to the occasion. He spent his freshman cross-country season racing unattached from the team, and getting a feel for the competition. 

Unfortunately for Villarreal, an injury suffered in December 2015 forced him to sit out. A nagging case of IT band syndrome prevented Villarreal from returning to competition until October of 2016. 

Despite his shortened training regimen and nearly a year-long absence, Villarreal surprised himself, submitting personal bests in the indoor mile and in the 1500-meter. 

“That was a good sign considering I wasn’t running year-round. Knowing that I could PR without being at my best gave me an extra boost of confidence going forward,” Villarreal said. 

Since then, he’s used that confidence to progress and post a top-10 NCAA Division I mark in the mile during this year’s indoor track season.

This season, Villarreal plans on becoming a Pac-12  Champion. 

“Last year I got fifth, but they are very strategic races, as in they usually come down to a sprint. Anyone can take the finish it really just depends on who has the best positioning,” Villarreal said. 

Villarreal said he plans on using the lessons that he has learned during his time at Arizona, including when he was injured, to continue to succeed. He says that his redshirt season taught him to mentally and physically prepare for his races. 

“I got to see how it all felt before actually competing, so it made me aware of the work that I needed to put in,in order to be successful,” Villarreal said.

Athletes don’t tend to reveal their flaws, but Villarreal notes that it’s important to work on his weaknesses. He admits that he’s struggled to maintain his speed in the middle portion of his races ever since high school. It’s an aspect of his craft that he continues to work on, because he knows that it is the key capable of unlocking his full potential. 

“Rather than drifting back, and trying to kick and close the gap at the last second I need to stay within about five meters to keep the front of the pack in my sights,” Villarreal said.

Improving his endurance in the middle of the race will allow Villarreal to save his energy at the end. Instead of running out of gas on the final straightaway, Villarreal’s kick should become the final blow to his competitors on his way to victory.

On Jan. 27 , Villarreal placed fifth at the University of Washington Invitational with a PR in the mile, clocking in at 3:59.65 . He ran even faster this past weekend in Seattle at the Washington Husky Classic  – placing 3rd overall with a time of 3:57.64 . 

At the end of the day, Villarreal has plenty of motivation to keep moving forward. He’s one of the first members of his family to compete in Division I Athletics. He has two younger siblings who aspire to do big things both athletically and academically, and he has family still living in Mexico who he wants to make proud. Most importantly, Villarreal loves to race – it’s his lifestyle. 

“There’s nothing that feels better than knowing you had a great race. You feel on top of the world,” Villarreal said.   

Follow Rob Kleifield on Twitter

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