Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Going the distance

Joaquin Chapa finishes out his college career at UO, where his father set records in the ’70s
by: ©2008 GEOFF THURNER, Joaquin Chapa came to run for UO, his father’s alma mater, after graduating from Stanford with a year of eligibility remaining.

EUGENE — At 23, Joaquin Chapa’s future in the workplace looks bright. With a degree in political science and a 3.6 GPA at Stanford, the articulate Grant High grad probably could get started on a long and lucrative career. But there is a little business yet undone. And Chapa intends to do it this spring as a senior distance runner at the University of Oregon. Utilizing an NCAA rule that allows a graduated student with remaining athletic athletic ability to transfer without penalty while working toward a graduate degree, Chapa was granted his release from Stanford and received a special waiver that has allowed him to transfer to Oregon. It’s a dream come true for Chapa, son of Rudy Chapa, the great UO distance runner of the late ’70s. “I grew up a huge Oregon fan,” says the state 1,500-meter champion as a senior at Grant in 2003. “I’ve always had a love for the school, for Eugene and for the track program.” But Chapa chose Stanford over Oregon and Georgetown after his prep career, in part because of academics, in part because Stanford’s track situation was superior at the time. “The Oregon program was in a totally different place than it is now,” Chapa says. “When I was making the decision, Stanford was the best distance-running program in the country, plus it’s a major academic institution. When you put those two together, it wasn’t that difficult a choice. It made perfect sense.” Chapa had a solid four-year career at Stanford, earning indoor All-America honors in the distance medley and being part of an NCAA champion cross-country squad. But injuries his final year and a half slowed his progress, and he never achieved greatness. “In terms of overall life at Stanford? I had a fantastic time,” he says. But Chapa wanted to quench his running thirst, and he wanted to do it at Oregon. With a season of both cross country and outdoor track remaining, he found out he qualified for the NCAA transfer rule. Chapa quickly got his paperwork together and — after getting his diploma winter term at Stanford — enrolled at Oregon last spring, paying his own way as a nonscholarship runner. Lananna recruited him What an ironic twist, then, that the Ducks’ coach is Vin Lananna — the man who recruited Chapa to Stanford. Lananna left Stanford after that school year to become athletic director at Oberlin College and never coached Chapa with the Cardinal. “It was a fun process interacting with Joaquin as a high school student,” Lananna says. “He’s bright and talented, and to finally get to coach him, it’s been a joy.” “We get along really well,” Chapa says. “I was looking forward to him coaching me (at Stanford). Knowing Vin, and seeing what he was doing with the program here, was a huge draw for me to want to come to Oregon.” After redshirting last spring, Chapa was a member of Oregon’s NCAA championship cross country team, though he didn’t compete in the NCAA meet at Terre Haute, Ind. He is off to a good start on the track this spring, placing third in the 800 (1:52.02) at the Oregon Preview and running 3:48.78 for second in the 1,500 in inclement conditions at the Pepsi Invitational. “I think I’m going to have a great season,” Chapa says. “I haven’t felt this good in years. I’ve been totally healthy now for a year and a half. It’s the first time in three years where I’ve had a long injury-free stretch. Vin’s training works really well with me.” Lananna won’t quarrel with that. “Joaquin has a tremendous amount of agility, is strong and fast,” he says. “He’s really a pretty impressive athlete. I just wish he were a freshman. “Joaquin’s issue is to identify what is his event. He’s reasonably good at 800, does a nice job at 1,500, and we’ve even been working with the steeplechase, which he has never run. The unfortunate thing is, we have only one season to figure it all out.” His PR could fall Chapa believes his best race is the 1,500 because of “my mix of speed and endurance.” His ultimate goal this season is to qualify for the Olympic Trials, which start June 27 in Eugene. The “A” standard is 3:39; the conditional “B” standard is 3:43. Chapa’s personal record is 3:43.22. “I’m pretty confident I can get below the ‘A’ standard,” he says. “My PR is three years old, and I consider it pretty soft.” Chapa also seems a good bet to take down his PRs in the 800 (1:49.83) and 5,000 (14:07.41). He is likely to run the latter event in Saturday’s dual-meet showdown with UCLA at Hayward Field. While he has never seen film of his father’s running career, Joaquin knows all about the achievements — Rudy was the NCAA 5,000 champion in 1978 and runner-up in ’79, American record-holder in the 3,000 and a seven-time All-American who still ranks on Oregon’s top-10 list in the 5,000 (13:19.22, second), 1,500 (3:38.7, sixth) and mile (3:57.04, seventh). Joaquin has never felt pressure to live up to the reputation of his father, who — with his wife and Joaquin’s mother, Trish Eiding — founded and runs SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness), an athletic training and equipment company in Portland. “I have a feeling all athletes with a well-known father get asked that, but it doesn’t exert a lot of mental pressure on me,” he says. “It’s fun to have a father who was really good and loved the same thing you love. He’s been a great resource to talk to about anything related to track. When I’m standing on the starting line of a race, though, what my dad ran for a 3K is the last thing going through my mind.” Writing will wait Joaquin Chapa will earn his master’s degree in journalism this spring, accomplishing it in five terms instead of the usual six. “I had never taken a journalism class or written a story, but I enjoy writing a lot,” he says. “And I like theorizing about politics and world events. I figured it’s a field where there is a nice confluence of the things I’minterested in.” A writing career, though, probably will have to wait. “I want to continue to run after this year,” he says. “I’m planning to run fast enough that somebody will pay me to do that for a few years. I’ll come up with a Plan B if I have to.” “Long-term, Joaquin has a very bright future (running),” Lananna says. “From a collegiate perspective, we need to be in a position where he’ll be the most successful this spring.” Lananna’s goals for Chapa are modest — score at the Pac-10 championships and qualify for the NCAA meet. Chapa’s aspirations are set higher. “I want to be right in the mix to win the Pac-10s, place really high at the NCAAs, run at the Olympic Trials and see what I can do there,” he says. Which would make him truly a chip off the old block. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.