May 11—The way distance runner Jose Araujo carried himself stood out when he was being recruited to Odessa College by track and field head coach Rachel Keylon.
He was dedicated to hard work, even when he found himself struggling at practices or competitions.
After seeing Araujo run a few times at Permian, Keylon noticed his determination to catch the runner in front of him and was sold.
Araujo, a 2018 Permian graduate, signed on to run for the Wranglers and is making a name for himself.
The Odessa native will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2021 NJCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Levelland on Wednesday.
He is the first Wrangler to advance to the national track meet in eight years, Keylon said.
Araujo almost advanced to the national competition as a freshman at Odessa College, but he missed the qualifying mark by about 10 seconds. He only competed in one meet during the 2020 season before everything was shortened or canceled because of COVID.
Now in his third year with the program because of the pandemic, Araujo sought out to reach new heights and shorten his race time.
He qualified for this year's national meet in February when he ran the steeplechase in 9:26.02 at the Hardin-Simmons Invite in Abilene.
"This year it was kind of like a redemption thing for him," Keylon said. "It was awesome to watch him come back and just go out and attack."
Araujo's track and field beginnings go back to when he was a seventh grader. He didn't take up the sport until he was 13 years old after trying his hand at other activities.
The runner said he felt a combination of excitement and nerves when he realized he had qualified for the biggest competition of his athletic career.
Before the national meet, Araujo was looking to better his form, speed and mental fortitude.
Form is the most important aspect of competing in a race like the steeplechase, Araujo said.
"The running part is just the running," he said. "It's the form, getting over the hurdle properly and getting over it fast."
By maintaining his fundamentals, Araujo can avoid a loss of time after he clears the obstacles in his path. The steeplechase race includes seven laps, with five barriers per lap, including a water jump.
Araujo's emphasis on fundamentals started at Permian, where Coach Hilberto Ochoa taught him how to keep paces. Those skills have translated to the collegiate level.
"[Ochoa] would set up cones all over the track and we'd have to hit a certain time at those cones," Araujo said. "Now I just try to hit that imaginary cone at the same time."
Keylon has seen Arujo improve leaps and bounds since he first stepped foot on the track at Odessa College. His progression includes shaving down his time in the 5,000-meters, 8,000-meters and steeplechase races.
Araujo has also grown as teammate.
"It's been really fun watching him grow as an athlete," Keylon said. "He's one of the best teammates that I could ask for on my team."
At the national competition, the head coach wants to see Araujo leave everything on the track. She'll even carry him back to the car after the race is done, as long as he gave it his all.
"There's no next meet, there's no next thing on our list," she said. "I don't want him to have any energy left."
Araujo believes qualifying and competing in an event at the national level can help open doors for him down the line. He wants to show others what he's capable of and how hard he worked to get where he is.
The runner will keep his approach simple when starts his race at South Plains College.
"Just go out there and run," Araujo said. "One hurdle at a time."