‘Chasing Excellence’ honors Coach Vigil

Courtesy photo.

Penned by former Courier editor Pat Melgares

ALAMOSA – The never-before-told underdog story of Colorado-born Joe I. Vigil from humble beginnings on the south side of Alamosa to Olympic greatness is now available for pre-order. Chasing Excellence: The Remarkable Life and Inspiring Vigilosophy of Coach Joe I. Vigil is available online from Flagstaff, Arizona-based Soulstice Publishing, www.soulsticepublishing.com. The book sells for $19.95.

Born in Antonito, Colorado one month after the Great Depression, Vigil was raised for most of his life in Alamosa, where his single mother worked tirelessly just to put food on the table for him and his two brothers.

Vigil, now 90 years old and still coaching Olympic athletes, has achieved remarkable success, coaching 19 collegiate national championship teams, 87 individual national champions, 425 All Americans, and 22 OIympians.

The blueprint for reaching such heights? In Chasing Excellence, author Pat Melgares depicts Vigil as a simple man. Born out of compassion and humility, Vigil’s success serves as an example of how anyone can overcome trying circumstances and long odds to achieve their goals.

Vigil’s refreshingly kind-hearted approach to life, Melgares says, provides a cornerstone to everything from his interpersonal relationships to his Vigilosophy as a distance running coach. The book provides firsthand accounts of how Vigil has influenced countless lives, from world class athletes like Deena Kastor, Meb Keflizghi and Brenda Martinez to the bartender at the pool hall on Alamosa’s State Street.

Melgares is a former Adams State University runner who fostered an intimate connection with Vigil during his time under the legendary coach’s tutelage. “I am proud more than anything to say he and I are friends,” Melgares said.

Melgares grew up on the south side of Alamosa admiring Vigil’s coaching success during the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to running for his dream program at the college level, he attended Alamosa High School, just as Vigil once did.

Melgares recounts the life of his friend and legendary former coach though a diverse compilation of stories told by figures throughout Vigil’s life. Olympians, family members, strangers, and even adversaries all describe the unique, individual impacts Vigil had on them in Chasing Excellence.

Melgares said a common theme in the book is that achieving success is not always a perfect path. “That fact plays out numerous times in this book. He’s born into poverty yet avoids the pitfalls that others in his same situation often fall victim to and rises to Eagle Scout, straight-A student, college athlete and Olympic coach,” he said. Melgares notes that Vigil worked tirelessly to earn his remarkable success.

He said in writing his former coach’s biography that there was no shortage of Vigilantes – a term given to those who have run or studied under Vigil -- to testify to his work ethic, because Vigil is known to generously defer to others before taking credit himself.

“Coach Vigil is one of those treasured leaders who is more likely to give credit to those around him when things go well, and take responsibility when things don’t go so well,” Melgares said.

He added: “The relatable nature of this decorated Olympic coach is the essence of Chasing Excellence. Vigil was not a golden child whose path to success was paved before he could even spell ‘coach’. He isn’t a show-boater hungry for the spotlight. Coach finds success through his humility and compassion for others. That’s who he is. He is a common man. Anybody can be like Joe I. Vigil if they’re willing to work and sacrifice.”

While pre-orders for Chasing Excellence opened on May 8, the book will be available in hard copy by early July, 2020.


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