By Collin Brooks
“Just have to run twice and go to church,” replied Daniel Boone’s Ben Varghese in a message requesting an interview. Those two things, along with family and friendships, define the priorities of the first indoor track athlete to earn All-American status from Daniel Boone.
Once he got done with those two things, Varghese was happy to speak about his New Balance Indoor National 5,000-Meter Championship he won in New York on Friday, March 10.
“I came out with the win and I am really happy about it,” said Varghese, who also won a TSSAA State Championship in the 3200-meter last year. “That race was all tactile and I just waited for my moment.”
That came with five laps left in the race. After sitting outside of the top 10 to start the race he made his move to win the contest. That allowed him to finish with a time of 14:47.25, almost nine-seconds ahead of the second-place runner. Even with the finish, Varghese was happy to be an example for people back home.
“I’m just happy that I can bring a national championship back to Gray, Tennesse,” he said. “And I can show everyone around here that, ‘You know what? We might be a smaller town but I know that we can breed really good runners and really good athletes.’”
The run was impressive according to one of his coaches Ray Jones, who mentioned people were surprised the way Varghese closed out the final half mile at 2:06.
“Wow, a 2:06 for the last half mile, it was pretty cool, because anyone who understood track and field that was there afterwards were coming up to him and telling him, ‘Man that was sweet,’” Jones said.
Prior to the race, Varghese watched a bunch of Irish runners on YouTube and saw the never quit attitude that they have.
“I think I have a lot of influences from Irish runners, but the biggest piece of advice that I ever received was that it’s all mental at the end of the day. When you put the work in, whenever you line-up you should never care who is on the line. Don’t care about that, it’s all mental.”
Jones is Irish and has a special bond with Varghese. As does Daniel Boone Coach Len Jeffers.
“You have no idea,” Jeffers replied to the question how special his senior is. “He’s so humble and he doesn’t forget where he came from. He never forgot what he overcame as a kid.
At the age of 4, Varghese suffered a lawnmower accident that severed close to 75 percent of his right ankle. After overcoming that, he said that listening to his coaches is what ultimately helped him win these honors.
“I’ve taking the coaching philosophy that the coaches have given to me and I have bought into it,” he said. “I know a lot of kids who have a really good coach but they don’t buy into it and they are missing out. But I buy into everything my coaches give me and I am very thankful they’re in my life and really that’s why I’m here.”
They helped him overcome the mental anguish that came with not being able to finish the 3.1-mile TSSAA Cross Country State Championship in November. During that race he passed out with less than a mile remaining.
“I think that was a really big learning point for me, because I did all the wrong things that day,” Varghese said. “I didn’t eat lunch, I didn’t drink enough water and I just wasn’t dialed in that day. My mind was somewhere else and that cost me.
“…I think as I move forward I will learn to know to do the right things before my races and I think that really helped me out.”
He’s far from the runty freshman that Jones and Jeffers took a chance on during his freshman season. But it was something they could just see.
“You could watch him, even though he had not filed in and he was lagging in the back and seemed to be content running JV, you could just watch him and he ran so effortlessly,” Daniel Boone coach Len Jeffers said. “He was just so smooth and his lines were so strong.”
The senior battled through a little bit of an arch issue for the past few weeks, which has forced him to work on pace work through that time. Even though Varghese has been running all season, he has just started to make his college visits. He said that he hopes to make his decision in April.