Freshman Ben Varghese led the East Tennessee State cross country team at the Virginia Tech Invitational two weeks ago in his first collegiate 8K race. He ran an impressive 25:05 to finish fifth amongst a deep field that included teams like Virginia Tech and Florida State, two traditionally rich cross country programs.
This earned him the Southern Conference Runner of the Week honors for Sept. 20.
“Coach Watts and I sat down before the race and he basically just let me loose during the race,” said Varghese. “I went out there and I had fun with it. I went out with Nathan [Longfellow] and just started picking guys off towards the end.”
Varghese is coming from a deep and rich program at Daniel Boone, where he won a national championship at 5,000 meters on the indoor track. The transition from high school to college running is often met with some challenges, but Varghese seems to having about as smooth a transition as one could hope for. He has showed no signs of slowing down, as demonstrated at Tuesday’s practice where the freshman stuck with the front group during the mile repeats.
“When I came to college, I was at the top for high school runners. Now, I have to start from the bottom again,” he said. “It’s all about working your way back up to the to and being patient with this sport.”
Varghese has high hopes for his career at ETSU and beyond like winning a national championship and eventually going to the Olympic Games, but his immediate goals are just to keep improving everyday by focusing on the “little things.” He describes the “little things” as hydration, taking ice baths, getting enough sleep and making the right decisions.
“The number one reason of why I’m here is to get a great education,” he said. “I want to be able to go out into the world and make a person of myself, earn money and create a sustainable life for myself.”
He said that his main inspirations throughout his running career are one of his high school coaches, Ray Jones, and a fellow teammate both at Boone and at ETSU in Josh Routh.
“When Josh and I were in high school, we used to push each other,” he said. “We both have similar goals and we believe in each other. If you have two people that believe in each other, you can make the dream possible.”