Gracia Gains Valuable Experience At JUCO Level

Gracia with National JuCo Championship trophy.  via Facebook


Joshua's Athlete Profile...


PREFACE:  I heard about Joshua Gracia's story recently and knew that I wanted to do a feature on it immediately. In my opinion, too many kids get sucked into the D1 tunnel-vision. Nothing against big schools, but the spots at these large universities--especially the top programs--are so limited and so many athletes are going out for it. To me, a graduate of a small college (Florida Southern) myself, there are a lot of kids who should entertain the idea of smaller schools. There they would have a better chance to contribute while furthering their athletic careers, have a great experience, and perhaps even get to compete at national championship meets. Joshua Gracia is a great example of a mid-level distance athlete who was able to excel at the JuCo level. He improved tremendously, won two national championships, and will now sign with Division 1 University of Oklahoma in February.. -- Jason Byrne, Webmaster





Former Santaluces runner Joshua Gracia was quick on the cross country course but not quick enough for some of the elite programs in the country.

“I went 4:34 which was my high school PR for one mile. I didn't make state until I was a senior and I ran 9:53 in the two mile.”
Those times didn’t get him much interest so he turned to the internet to help his search.
“I had no looks and I had something called where my junior college coach found me. When I was in high school, I didn't run much. When I went to junior college I got some mileage and had a decent freshman year, then I got up to 80 plus miles a week and the rest was what it was I guess.”
At first discouraged, Gracia knew there were other avenues which he could pursue his passion, even if it wasn’t on the division one level.
“Well a lot of major D1 coaches don’t look for the under the radar guys, only the big time Footlocker guys which not every high school kid can be. Junior colleges take guys that are 9:50 and up guys and can really help them reach their potential. I was passionate in high school, but like most high school kids, I didn’t have (one of those top programs with lots of tradition, good training help, or anyone else to run with). Junior college can give you the opportunity to run with teammates that share your passion and if you choose a good Junior college, a pretty good coach too.
He chose to go to Cowley College in Arkansas City and run for coach Vincent Degrado. 
“I chose Cowley because it was amongst the top 5 program in NJCAA, I figured a could get faster and most important, gain experience It’s huge to go to a school that you will make an impact on, feel appreciated at, like me, I never ran for a team and when I did, I gained confidence and won two National titles. It’s huge and usually gives you experience and helps put your future in the right direction.”
As many high school runners get ready to make their college choices Gracia says don’t rule out the JUCO route.
“JUCO was huge with helping me transition. No more 5k, it’s an 8k and a totally different race. When going JUCO, you get to run 8ks and get use to the distance and also get use to competing in college. Also kids think they have to stay two years which isn't true, if you can pass the clearinghouse out of high school, you can go to a JUCO for one year and gain experience which will help you transition. Instead of red shirting at a D1, you’re competing for national titles.”
He credits his success at that level to a second chance in recruiting and his ultimate decision to become an Oklahoma Sooner.
“I placed 7th in NJCAA nationals and was the first American to cross the finish line. This was our team’s first national title, men and woman won. Then we won the half marathon national championship the following week. Recruiting was a mess. I had looks from Florida State, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas State, Wichita State and more. Oklahoma has five JUCO guys currently on their roster, so they understand and were great with me.”
Due to a change in the early signing period, he will officially be a Sooner in February. According to Gracia this isn’t the last you’ve heard of him.
“No sir, I plan on making an immediate impact, top five on Oklahoma and put myself in a position to get NCAA All-American accolades. I will be in Norman, Oklahoma early in the summer putting in work to put my team in position to get on the podium.”