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Michael Vidal - Son, Distance Runner, Man

Published by
DyeStatFL.com   Apr 5th 2012, 2:11am


Michael Vidal - Son, Distance Runner, Man


Every once in a while a story emerges that makes you stop to catch your breath, to shake your head in wonder, to marvel at the magnificence of the human spirit.


This is one of those stories. It is the story of Michael Vidal, 19, a cross country and track athlete at Florida Atlantic University who not only is excelling in sports in which he is a relative newcomer but is excelling in a life that has offered challenges many people could not endure.


“His story is amazing,” said Johann Odermatt, who was Vidal’s coach at Hialeah Miami Lakes High and is the USA Track and Field Athletic Development Program Florida representative.  



“Michael experienced something very unique, that the average 17- to 19-year-old man doesn’t experience. God bless him for finding running. He’s been able to kind of balance out running with emotion, with academics.”



Michael Vidal ( Photo Credit JC Ridley)



Vidal’s story begins with him finding a niche in both cross country and track as a senior at Miami Lakes after a coach suggested he try running instead of football where he played tight end and defensive end.  He stood out to the extent that he was noticed and recruited by FAU with the design of him entering the Boca Raton university as a freshman in the fall of 2011.


But due to late paperwork and other issues he couldn’t enroll for the first semester, a devastating blow but a blessing in disguise. It allowed Vidal to spend precious final hours - which otherwise would have been committed to college two counties to the north - with his father Jose. The elder Vidal was seriously ill after suffering an amputation and being paralyzed in a vicious hit and run accident.


“Not getting accepted in the fall was actually good for me, it actually let me spend more time with my father,” Michael Vidal said. “I was able to stay home and take care of him.”


By December Jose Vidal had taken a turn for the worse and told his family he was too tired to keep fighting after 3 1/2 years.


The decision on acceding to Jose Vidal’s wishes fell to Vidal’s mother Liza who shared it with Vidal and his sisters Nicole, a UCF student, and Natalie,  who attends Miami Lakes. The family chose to let Jose Vidal rest in peace.


“It was very difficult for Michael,” Odermatt said. “He kept his head up, he kept his chin up off his chest, kept his posture up entrusting that during this painful moment . . . That the light would be on the other side.


“I know it’s tough, I lost my dad in 2007. It took me four years to grieve, quietly.”


Then fate, or whatever life’s capricious turns can be called, intervened.


A letter arrived explaining that the issues that prevented Michael Vidal from enrolling at FAU were resolved. 


He was officially accepted.


“It seemed like God was in control of this entire situation,” Odermatt said. “After Michael let go of his father, his receipt was in the mail. ‘Now you can go.’ Just that alone at 17, 18 years old.


“I’m very proud of him. That story combined with his ability to keep his academics over I want to say a 3.2 and staying focused despite the test that he was enduring . . . ”


And the wind has been at Michael Vidal’s back ever since, with the exception of a stress fracture in his foot which slowed him as he tried to play catch up after finally reaching FAU.


Much of the impetus comes from Michael’s continuing thoughts of his father.


“Always before I race I always pray and always ask him to be with me when I’m running,” Michael Vidal said.


“The one thing that sticks with me that he told me once, he told me that since he’s in a wheelchair and he can’t run that I could run for him, that I could walk for him."


“When he sees me run he feels like he’s running because he’s watching me run. That’s a big part of me. I always run for him, I always think about him. That’s maybe one of the main reasons why I run.”


Vidal’s collegiate coach Alex Smolka credits Vidal’s temperament with keeping him on course.


“I think the most positive quality about him . . . He’s remarkably calm for a young person and for what he had to go through,” Smolka said.


“It doesn’t seem like it’s rattling (him) at least externally. The old motto . . . Don’t get worried about stuff you can’t control, in his case really has been holding true. He didn’t get frustrated when he was injured. He sort of kept the big picture in mind and I think it helps him get through those hard times.


“He sort of always looks at ‘well, let’s see where we can go from here. Today’s bad, hopefully tomorrow’s going to get better.’ His positive outlook and his not letting life get in the way of where he wants to be in the future is remarkable.”  


Odermatt agreed.


“I could just imagine, I know that man has some hurt in him,” he said. “He’s just dealing with it in such a way that I’m even impressed.


“To see this kid . . . at the University of Miami to rip off a 3:55 (in 1,500 meters) as a freshman, it brought tears to my eyes knowing what this kid must have swallowed.”



Michael Vidal (in Green Singlet, Photo Credit JC Ridley)


Vidal’s effort in that 1,500 also resonated with Smolka.


“Just by looking at him we knew good things were going to happen,” Smolka said. “But it certainly has come much quicker than we expected. He’s progressed very quickly.


“Given his times from high school, which certainly weren’t bad, it’s quite remarkable how the 1,500 has dropped time wise.”


It’s been a special effort from a special person with a special vision.


“I think too may young people are too worried about today and tomorrow,” Smolka said. “And they sort of forget that there is a big picture and there is something along the way that is hopefully going to make everything that they go through now worthwhile.


“He certainly is an example of somebody who has had tragedy and has had setbacks but has been able to keep a positive outlook. It certainly has made him stronger.”


Vidal sees nothing but positives ahead.


“I’ve been training real hard, having good coaching, taking my rest,” he said.


“That 3:55, I was pushing it but I know I can get better. Coach Smolka was telling me I’m only a freshman. Hopefully I get faster each race and just make sure that each race, even if I don’t PR, as long as I give it all I have that’s all I can ask for.”


By Mark DeCotis

For DistancePreps.com


Contact DeCotis at markdecotis@mac.com.

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