Freshman runner making an impact

Freshman runner making an impact

By Brent Meske

On a team where more than a third of the players are seniors, a freshman is making an impact in the starting seven.

Jonathan Vara is the only freshman on the men’s cross-country team who hasn’t been red-shirted. Instead, he is running in the top seven on the team and could improve by the end of the year.

Coach David Beauchem said Vara was not red-shirted because he came in ready to race and has stayed healthy.


Vara was an All-American and All-State runner on the 4×800 meter relay squad for Lane Technical College Prep High School.

Kristopher Roof, Vara’s coach at Lane Tech high school, said Vara was not their best runner, but had a lot of heart.

“He arguably possessed the most heart and drive,” he said. “He is extremely selfless and will do anything for his team. He should have a lot of room for growth at the collegiate level. He is far from burning out.”

Roof said he has a low mileage philosophy for high school runners. He said running longer distances in college will allow him room to grow as a runner.

Vara said there has been a learning curve going from high school to the collegiate level. He said the difference between the three-mile race in high school and the 8K race in college has been the biggest change.

“I think that experience helps, it sets the tone,” he said. “I worked hard in training during high school, so I’m not going to stop now. I learned how to run the three-mile in high school, now I’ll learn how to run the 8K in college.”

Vara finished 12th at the Saluki Invitational and 134th of 174 runners at the Notre Dame Invitational this season.


Beauchem said Vara has been practicing well but needs to find a rhythm in his races. He said it is hard to know what to expect from a freshman, but Vara is finishing where he expected.

Although his finishes are not near the top of the leaderboards, senior Michael Castel said Vara can be a great racer going forward.

“When I was a freshman I couldn’t do half the things he is doing right now,” he said. “He’s sticking with us on all the workouts and he’s getting his mileage in.”

Vara said Beauchem and more experienced runnersz like Castel have helped his running by telling him when to push himself and when to take it easy.

“We put a lot of focus on training the freshmen,” Castel said. “As upperclassmen, we know what to do and how to do it, but the freshmen need guidance. We don’t just help with running either, we make sure they are studying and focusing on the right things outside of racing too.”

Vara said getting more experience in races and listening to Beauchem will help him continue to get better going forward.

“[Beauchem] knows what he is talking about,” he said. “Everything I learned in high school doesn’t really apply in college. I have a new coach and I need to just trust him.”

Vara and the rest of the cross-country team will continue their season at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational.

Brent Meske can be reached by email at [email protected] on Twitter @bentmeskeDE.or at 536-3311.