If Joe Vigil were an author instead of a highly successful and influential distance running coach, there would be plenty about running in his book. In addition, Dr. Joseph Isabel Vigil, the men’s cross-country coach at Adams State College, would provide the reader with an insight into the commitment needed to be a successful runner, to be a successful anything. Vigil is living proof the philosophy is sound. He has parlayed it into 12 national NAIA cross-country team championships at Adams State where he began coaching in 1965.
There is much more to report about this modest man who fashions himself as much an educator as he does a coach. About his absolute devotion and loyalty to Adams State College and the city of Alamosa.
Vigil migrated from Antonio, Colorado to Alamosa where he went to high school, then on to Adams State where he was a first-team All-Rocky Mountain Conference guard on the Indians’ 1953 football team.
He coached Alamosa High School to eight state track and field championships before being wooed by Adams State in 1965, setting up camp as its cross-country as well as its track and field coach. Vigil has coached a total of 260 NAIA All-Americans in cross-country and track & field. He has been the NAIA cross-country national coach of the year 13 times, twice the NAIA national track and field coach of the year. He is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame.
In 1988, he was the long distance running coach on the track staff of the United States Olympic Team. He was also the head coach for the United States team in the 1997 Pan-American Games. He was an influential committee member of The Athletic Congress, conducts clinics all over the world and has been a coach more than 10 times in international competition.
Vigil, who has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Adams State, along with a doctorate in Exercise Physiology from the University of New Mexico, was the personal coach of Alamosa resident Pat Porter, eight-time national TAC cross-country champion.
With his athletic excellence, Vigil is equally proud of his runners as scholars, taking an active interest in their classroom experience. In that regard, his athletes have secured 3.2 grade point averages with a 90 percent graduation rate.
“There are 50 million Americans running, so it must be great,” Vigil says of his sport. “And at the epitome of that, we have a team in the San Luis Valley, in Alamosa Colorado, that has broken every conceivable record. We’re representing all those runners. That’s the grass roots of our program. We’re not running for glory. We represent what those 50 million people are doing.”
Most athletes are ready to make an effort in a race. Few are ready to carry their efforts through months or years of training and racing.