St. Francis High senior Julian Vargas is having a record-setting season with the Sharks boys track and field team competing in the 3,200-meter. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE—The St. Francis High track and field team had a day off from practice last week and a majority of the athletes took advantage to rest during their free time. 

That wasn’t the case for senior distance runner Julian Vargas, who was putting in the extra training on the track at Watsonville High School.   

It’s one of the reasons why he’s ranked No. 2 in the 3,200-meters in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division and No. 10 in the Central Coast Section, according to 

“It means a lot to my pride and also I’m proving for the others that believed in me before anyone else,” Vargas said about being ranked as one of the top runners in the area.

He recently placed third in the 3,200 and reset the school record in 9 minutes, 15.50 seconds at the Stanford Invitational on April 1.  

“It was a crazy experience,” Vargas said. “Tons of people watching me from all over. I got to race some fast people from Mountain View and Chico.”

Chico High senior Mario Giannini won the race in 9:07.96 and Mountain View High senior Emmanuel Leblond took second (9:08.73).

St. Francis track and field coach Ramona Young said Vargas has improved his ability to put together a good race. However, there are still some minor adjustments they’d like to make before heading into the postseason. 

“We have some fine-tuning that needs to happen there and he’s carrying it but it’s hard for [Vargas],” Young said. “He’s always chomping at the bit, ready to surge to the front of the race and that’s definitely a learn quality for him to be patient, and know there’s no trophy on lap one.”

Vargas said the race played out well. He stayed in the lead pack during the first mile and felt like he had enough juice to make a move during the sixth lap.

“It was pretty tight throughout the whole lap six and seven,” he said. “By lap eight, it was pretty hot. I started feeling it. I still ran a pretty fast last lap but it wasn’t enough to win.” 

Last week, he placed 36th out of 82 runners in the 3,200 in 9:18.99 at the Arcadia Invitational. He shaved 31 seconds from last year’s last-place finish.

Vargas used that run as motivation and fuel heading into the cross country season in the fall.

He was the runner-up in both the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division and Central Coast Section championships, finishing in 15:39.0 and 15:37.4, respectively.

Vargas qualified as an individual for the 34th California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country Championships. He took 12th out of 205 runners in 15:58.6 seconds in the Division V race at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 27. 

“So he’s definitely been having a progressive year,” Young said. “Much more consistent with his quality of training … it’s really helped be more comfortable at an uncomfortable pace.” 

Vargas said he worked on his speed during the winter and stayed in shape, which also meant not getting ill.

He switched his entire training routine that was implemented by Young and Palma High assistant coach Daniel Tapia.

“Ramona [Young], she’s out here reminding me, watching if I’m injured or not,” Vargas said. “Coach Danny [Tapia] is here, providing me with my workouts and everything.”

Vargas has also trained the past couple of years at Guerrilla Underground Performance in Watsonville. Rex Gomez and Alex Romero make sure that the running prodigy hits the weight room and sled pushes.

“Big jumps this year, I can tell,” Vargas said. 

One of the big goals for Vargas was to make the big jumps and improve on a daily basis. 

“You don’t know as a coach where the breaking point is going to be but we’re lucky he’s been able to be healthy and doing an offseason of 60-plus miles,” Young said. 

For now, he said he’s just taking it step-by-step and he’s not trying to build an ego by setting school records. 

The ultimate goal is to qualify for both the CCS and CIF championships. And in order to get there Vargas said it’s going to take just one simple thing.   

“Competing with others that are better than me right now,” he said.

St. Francis High senior Julian Vargas placed third in the 3,200-meter in 9:15.50 at the Stanford Invitational on April 1. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)
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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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