One possesses brute strength, the other undeniable speed. Together, they’ve formed a dynamic duo on the Arizona track and field team and are both looking to make history. Thrower Jordan Geist and distance runner Carlos Villarreal have turned into must-watch competitors when they step onto the track, and they are only getting better.
Geist ranks fifth in the world with a 21.59-meter shot put throw and Villarreal ranks second in the 1500-meter run with a time of 3:37.22. Both athletes recently sat down with the Daily Wildcat to discuss how they’ve become two of the best in the world in their respective events.
Daily Wildcat: What goes through your mind when you see your name toward the top of, not only the NCAA leader list, but the world leader list, too?
Jordan Geist: It’s cool because I’ve been there before and I’m comfortable being at the top of the nation. What I need to do now is carry that over and not use it as an arrogance, but a chip on my shoulder going into nationals and Pac-12. I know that on a good day I am the best in the nation and I just need to keep that mentality the rest of the season.
DW: What makes you feel comfortable being at the top?
JG: All through high school and even last year, I had the furthest throw. Like last year I had the furthest throw in the NCAA and this year, too. It’s not necessarily a comfort but it helps me knowing I have a target on my back and I have to keep training harder and getting better.
DW: If you’re already one of the best in the world, how do you find ways to improve?
JG: The biggest thing for me is to keep focusing on my technique. My technique has been a lot better these last few weeks ever since we gotten to outdoors… now we just have to switch what we’re doing in the weight room and try to get a little quicker now.
DW: What has attributed to honing your technique and achieving new personal records?
JG: For the outdoors, just being patient and calm. I would get really worked up during indoors and wouldn’t throw well. That’s why I didn’t do well at nationals. I got fifth when I was ranked second. Now I am actually relaxing and executing my throw a lot better and that’s why it’s going further.
DW: What did you do that allowed you to become for patient and calm?
JG: A lot of it was just talking to other people. Like Darrelle Hill, he was an Olympian in 2016, he is from Pennsylvania and so am I. So we have a bit of a connection and he was talking to me about when he one the Diamond League Championship two years ago, he was just saying the slower he felt he was going, the further his throws were going. So that’s what I put in my mind and was focusing on.
DW: What’s your excitement level at knowing you have the chance to win the Pac-12 Championships in front of the home crowd in Tucson this year?
JG: I think it’s really awesome that the fan base we have, we a huge fan base in Tucson and I think we’re going to get a lot of people to come out. We’re going to see a lot of fast times. a lot of far throws and a lot of far jumps. There’s going to be a lot of families that come out so it will be cool to be a part of that.
Daily Wildcat: When you see yourself at the No. 2 1500-meter spot in the world, what does that mean to you?
Carlos Villarreal: It’s honestly pretty crazy, not going to lie I know it’s early given the world championships are in October. Not like the Kenyans and Ethiopians and a lot of the Europeans that are usually at the top of the world have yet to run all out because they are waiting around. But just to be at No. 2 right now is crazy. It doesn’t really feel like it and I know I still have a lot of work to do.
DW: What’s been the training process this season to improve your speed?
CV: Once indoor wrapped up, we focused on longer distances. I opened up the season in a 5K run and that went decent because I PR’d (personal record). Starting out with such a large distance like that really opened up my season to where I can go and run the 800-meter and that set will be my training for the 1500. My training as come along great and now it’s about getting ready for the Pac-12 Championships.
DW: You posted a video recently of your kick at the end of a race where you feel down crossing the finish line as you were trying to out-run the runner next to you. What was that finish like and has that ever happened before?
CV: Yeah that was at the Bryan Clay Invitational. I feel back heading into the final lap and had a lot of ground to pick up with 400 meters to go. So I took off on my kick from there. 300 I went into the next gear, 200 I went into the next gear and then I used whatever I had left in the last 100 meters. Then 20 meters to go, my legs just give out and I begin to stumble but I’m right next to my competitor and as I try to get the lean in, I just tumbled through the line. That was a crazy experience.
That sort of finish hasn’t happened to me before but there have been some close ones before. I did stumble in the Husky Invitational where a Washington runner went down in front of me and took me down with him.
DW: What does it mean to run in the Pac-12 Championships soon in your home state and for your school to host them?
CV: The first time I found out I was going to be able to run here in Tucson in the Pac-12 Championships, I was really excited. Being from Southern Arizona, I’ve been a Wildcat fan my whole life so just to have the opportunity to run and represent the University of Arizona in front of my family while competing for the Pac-12 Championship is just a dream come true.
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