It's a beautiful summer day and junior Tomas Finol decides to fly around his hometown of Spring, Texas. He's not flying around in his car, with friends or on his feet, he's actually flying a plane. Finol is not only one of Texas' top middle distance runners; he is also a licensed pilot.
"Flying is in my family," explained Finol, who is expected to compete in the 800 meters for Texas at this weekend's Big 12 Indoor Championships. "The spring of my senior year in high school, I got my license. It helps to keep life interesting."
Finol enjoyed the challenge of learning how to fly, which may explain why he attacks running with the passion he does; the challenge.
"I consider myself a blue collar worker," said Finol, an All-Big 12 performer in the 800 meters last season. "I don't have the best credentials on the team by any means and I'm not the flashiest runner, but I just work really hard."
Associate head coach Jason Vigilante agrees with that statement.
"Tomas is committed," said Vigilante. "When I recruit athletes, I'm looking for men who can look you in the eye and shake your hand, and that is the mold Tomas is cut from."
Vigilante originally recruited Finol out of the Houston area and Finol admitted that he was always interested in coming to Texas, but the comments of a certain person led him to Oregon.
"When I was being recruited, a coach in the Pac-10 told me that I wasn't good enough to compete," explained Finol. "I ended up going to Oregon, so I would have the chance to prove that coach wrong."
That decision turned out to be a self-described "ill-advised" one and Finol longed to return to Texas and race for coach Vigilante.
"My body was broken down in Oregon and I realized that the place I really wanted to be was Texas," said Finol. "When I got to Texas, I had to start all over. It was like another freshman year."
Always a team first athlete, Finol pushed himself to the limit during his sophomore year because he wanted to contribute for the Longhorns as soon as he could.
"I scored one point for the team by coming in eighth at last year's indoors," added Finol. "But, after that, my body was basically destroyed and I couldn't contribute during the outdoor season."
Finol knew he would have to pick up his training, so he could be productive throughout the entire season, not just the indoor campaign. He also wanted to use the experience he had gained in order to make himself a more productive runner for the team and his coach.
"Part of the reason I push myself so hard is for Vig," explained Finol. "He knows how to get it done. He is a friend when he has to be, but he is also a coach when he has to be."
But, because Finol is so self-motivated, there aren't many times when coach Vigilante finds himself having to get on him.
"He gives me the best results possible regardless of the incentive," stated Vigilante. "With Tomas, it is always the best he can do, everyday."
Whether it is running or flying, Finol meets the challenge head on, and when he takes to the track this weekend, two of his favorite things will mirror each other. He'll start with his take off and try to soar to the head of the pack. Then, as he comes to the finish line, he'll be looking for the perfect landing, which for him means scratching out every point he can to add to the Longhorns total.