Barefooted, 11-year-old Mario Eloy Morán Vásquez, a shy fifth grader from El Torito of Samara, raced against the best young athletes from around the country in the 60-meter dash in the National Stadium in San Jose on Friday, October 21st, and he came in fifth place with his best running time yet.
School Director Maria de los Angeles Acosta was proud to have a student representing El Torito school in the national competition. She, her brother, and one of Mario's classmates trained with Mario in the beach on Saturdays, helping him prepare. One thing they were especially working on was his start since Mario had slipped at the start of the race at the provincial competition in Nicoya in late September. However, he recovered and came in first place, qualifying him to compete at nationals.
At the national competition, Acosta said his start was perfect and he improved his running time from 9.2 seconds at the provincial competition to 8.58 seconds at nationals.
"He is a boy of very limited resources," Acosta recognized, but he's a good student with good values.
Mario runs barefoot because he didn't have running shoes, although after he qualified for nationals, several patrons like Intercultura, CREAR and SEC stepped in to fund the trip to San Jose, and someone bought him an athletic jacket and pants as well as tennis shoes.
Although he had brand new white tennis shoes, Mario decided to run barefoot as usual. "I've never run in tennis shoes," the boy explained. "I hardly use them because they're a little big on me."
Mario lives in a wood house in Pueblo Nuevo, a squatter's village in El Torito of Samara, with his mother, his younger sister and his little brother. His father works on a pineapple plantation in San Carlos.
His mother, Maria Inez Vasquez Mairena, who went with him to San Jose, confessed that she has to fight with him to put boots on when it is muddy. Practically the only time he wears shoes is to go to school, she said.