BYU has a diverse campus, and not just when it comes to academics. BYU men’s track and field team athletes come from a variety of places across the globe.
Raul or “Alex” Rios is a freshman pole vaulter from Aguascalientes, Mexico. Although Rios is not affiliated with the LDS faith, he always wanted to come to BYU because of a certain Cougar alumnus.
“BYU had a very good pole vaulter — Robbie Pratt,” Rios said. “He used to hold the Mexican record in pole vaulting. He was an example to me as a child, and I wanted to follow his example and go to BYU.”
Rios had the opportunity to train with Pratt’s father for a time. He also came to live with his former coach in Alpine, Utah — it was during this period when Rios first visited the BYU campus. Now, as his freshman year as a BYU student-athlete comes to a close, Rios reflects on the stark differences between his experience abroad and back home in Mexico.
“There is no comparison between BYU and the way I used to train in Mexico,” Rios said. “Pole vaulting in Mexico is not really popular because it is expensive, and I really didn’t have the resources so it was kind of hard to train.”
This disadvantage did not deter him. Rios said without a coach, he and two other teammates trained and supported each other. His hard work certainly paid off and Rios has thrived as a BYU Cougar.
At this year’s Aztec Invitational, Rios took seventh place with a mark of 4.71 meters, and at the Texas Relays he set a new personal record of 5.06 meters.
In addition to the coaches, training and equipment BYU provides, Rios said BYU helps fulfill another one of his passions.
“I enjoy visiting new places, exploring new cultures and meeting new people,” Rios said. “BYU offers me this opportunity because I am constantly hanging out with people that have served in different countries or people who come from different countries.”
Once Rios completes his collegiate career he plans to continue his academic career by attending graduate school with hopes of ‘jumping’ along the way.
Ramarco Thompson is a sophomore sprinter from Bridgetown, Barbados. Although Thompson preferred soccer to track and field when he was younger, there is no denying that running is in his blood.
Thompson said he had many key mentors and examples as he grew up who helped him get to where he is today.
“Both my parents ran track,” Thompson said. “My mother actually represented Barbados on the national level, so she was a motivation for me to keep going.”
Thompson’s father pushed him to stay motivated in his younger years when he did not particularly enjoy track and field. In high school, Thompson’s coaches helped him realize his potential and athletic ability. Thompson’s uncle was also a big motivator.
“My uncle, through all my training, was one of the main people that wanted to see me go to the Olympics,” Thompson said. “He passed away when I was 16. After his passing, I just became more motivated to succeed in track.”
Thompson intends to fulfill his and his uncle’s dream of representing Barbados in the Olympics; his goal is to make the national team by 2020.
Thompson was recruited to run for schools like LSU, Jackson State University and Penn State. However, Thompson said he chose BYU because of coach Stephani Perkins.
“She seemed more invested in me as a person and as an athlete and not just what I could do to benefit the team,” Thompson said.
Thompson said his entire BYU experience has reflected his one-on-one experience with his coach and teammates.
“My BYU experience has been great,” Thompson said. “The whole campus is family oriented — not just the track team.”
Thompson said it is an amazing experience, especially coming from his high school where he had friends but lacked a sense of community.
Thompson, an economics student, has several small businesses in Barbados.
“So if a professional career in track doesn’t work out, I would like to keep building on that,” Thompson said.
Some of his businesses include a valet and car care service, and a dog kennel.
Hurdler and sprinter Max Scheible is a junior who came to BYU from Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany.
“When I was 16, I was a foreign exchange student at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs,” Scheible said. “My coach was BYU track coach Mark Robison’s son. He told me I was a really good athlete and that I should look into BYU.”
Scheible visited campus once before with his parents and loved the atmosphere.
“I feel like in the United States, college brings sports and academics together,” Scheible said. “In Germany, it is completely separate…it is more of a club sport. (In the United States) it is really nice for the athlete because professors recognize it as a sport and not just a hobby.”
Growing up, Scheible had friends and family members who helped him pursue his track and field career.
“When I was 9 years old, I had a friend that convinced me to try out for the track team,” Scheible said. “When I was three, my dad took me running on a track and someone had commented on how nice my running style was and that stuck in my parents’ minds. So when my friend told me to try out for track, my parents were in full support.”
Scheible excelled in his chosen sport long before he came to BYU. He placed ninth overall in the 2011 European Junior Championships and 13th in the 2012 World Junior Championships.
Now a Cougar, Scheible continues to dominate. This past season, Scheible was a member of the distance medley relay squad that took fourth place at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. He also set personal bests in the 800-meter and 400-meter events with times of 1:54.65 and 51.19, respectively.
Most recently, Scheible qualified for the NCAA Division I Championships in the 400-meter hurdles with a personal best time of 50.77 seconds.
Scheible said one of the biggest differences about running track for BYU is being surrounded by a deep concentration of high caliber athletes. Scheible said in Germany, athletes of the same athletic ability are not normally grouped together.
“It is really nice to be part of such a big team,” Scheible said. “We have three 400-meter hurdlers that are really good and nationally ranked and it is a really nice training group where I can work really hard with them, whereas before I was alone.”
Aside from track and field, Scheible loves to play golf and travel with his wife, Jessica.
Scheible traveled to Eugene, Oregon, with 14 other BYU track and field athletes that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships that began on June 7.
Scheible took 17th place in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 51.92 seconds and helped the men’s team finish tied for 33rd.
The women’s team finished tied for 43rd overall.