Inspired by the 1960s cross country success of two Kansas schools - current-day Fort Hays State and Emporia State, which combined for eight NAIA titles in a 12 year stretch - Vigil (pronounced Vee-Hill) won 19 national championships at Adams State and has coached 22 Olympians since.
As a teacher, coach, author, exercise physiologist and co-founder of USA Track & Field's coaching education program, Vigil has influenced tens of thousands of people, from world-class athletes like Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, and Brenda Martinez to homemakers taking up running for the first time in his community running program.
Abdi Abdirahman, a four-time Olympian who has qualified for the 2021 Olympic Marathon notes: "He's the coach of every distance runner of my generation. We all have our own coaches, but Coach Vigil is the one we all share."
The book is authored by journalist and Kansas MileSplit contributor Pat Melgares, a fellow Alamosan who was one of Vigil's 425 All-Americans when he ran at Adams State College in the 1980s. Melgares presents Vigil as a prolific storyteller, and shares stories from the legendary coach and more than 50 family members, former runners, and cross country and track and field foes who've been shaped by Vigil's presence.
Melgares said Vigil's legacy reaches far beyond titles. The book provides an inside look at a man who combines kindness, a competitive spirit, and endless commitment to others. Vigil and his "Vigilosophy" embody timeless traits that make up a leader -- giving the book a particular urgency during these troubled and divided times.
In the prologue, Melgares writes, "If coaching is about relationships -- and most think it is whether they have been in the trenches or studied those who have -- then Vigil is certainly a master coach, having given his soul to every athlete's physical, mental, and social well-being."
Vigil's refreshingly kind-hearted approach to life, Melgares says, provides a cornerstone to everything from his interpersonal relationships to the "Vigilosophy" his devoted runners at Adams State -- the "Vigilantes" -- embraced.
"The relatable nature of this decorated Olympic coach is the essence of Chasing Excellence," Melgares said. "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."
Vigil is driven by a persistent desire to learn, a deep faith in people, and an unwavering loyalty to his hometown. His life is an American dream-a must-read for anyone who wants to see integrity and a tireless work ethic rewarded.
"Chasing Excellence has been Coach Vigil's mantra for decades, for himself and those he teaches," Melgares said. "And at age 90, he's as relentless as ever in that quest."
Chasing Excellence: The Remarkable Life and Inspiring Vigilosophy of Coach Joe I. Vigil is now available. Order online at www.soulsticepublishing.com.