Moroni Rubio was only 16 when he earned the number one ranking among sprinters in Mexico, after breaking records in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. That same year, 2002, he took first place in the 100 meters at the Central American Junior Championships and was named athlete of the year in the state of Yucatán.
His dreams are pinned on his feet, which are expected to carry him all the way to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. But even if, for some reason, his feet don’t take him to the Olympics, they will have already accomplished a great work.
His feet have put his unique name in the spotlight, bringing him numerous missionary opportunities. Because of Moroni’s success, he’s been on television a number of times—each time with his name right there on the screen.
“I’m asked about my name a lot,” says Moroni, a priest in the Mérida México Lakín Stake. “It’s a great opportunity to talk about the gospel. And when I race, the members watching always know I’m a member too—by my name. I think it’s something they’re proud of.”
His coaches have always told him he has a beautiful stride. But for Moroni, having “beautiful feet” is just as important—remembering Isaiah’s words about missionaries: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings” (Isa. 52:7).
Getting where he is now hasn’t been easy. He’s a sprinter with a marathon schedule. Moroni is off to school early. After school there’s just enough time to wolf down a snack before heading off to training. By the time he’s home, at around 8:00 P.M., he barely has time to eat dinner and do homework. Then it’s off to bed. Keeping up with Moroni isn’t a challenge just on the track.
“It’s a sacrifice,” Moroni says. “A lot of times I want to do other things, like hang out with my friends or play the guitar. But there’s no time.”
As Moroni tries to juggle his training schedule with homework, family, church, and friends, the scripture about a man running “faster than he has strength” takes on more than one meaning for him.
Like many Latter-day Saint teens, Moroni has had to be careful not to overload himself by doing too much. From his experience as a runner, Moroni knows that you can hurt yourself when you push too hard. As King Benjamin told his people, “It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27).
But to Moroni that scripture isn’t an excuse to stay in his comfort zone; it’s a challenge to increase his strength. When he began competing in the 100 meters at age 14, his top time was 11.9 seconds. Through growth and training, he has increased his strength and improved his time. Now Moroni’s best time in the 100 meters is 10.46 seconds—the Mexican record in the junior (minor) division.
“It’s the consistency in training,” he says, “every day without quitting. I know I have limits, but they can change. On the track there are times when I think I can’t make it, but stretching that much farther is part of the sacrifice to get better.”
Or in King Benjamin’s words: “And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize” (Mosiah 4:27). That lesson hasn’t been lost on Moroni off the track.
“Trials that once seemed impossible aren’t necessarily,” Moroni says. “The Lord will never give us challenges we can’t overcome. We can overcome them even if at first we think we can’t. Never giving up is how we grow and get better. In the end, the sacrifices are worth it.”
Moroni says that one of his greatest supports during trials—both on and off the track—is his family. He appreciates their support. They appreciate how he doesn’t think he’s better than they are because of all the attention he is receiving. After all, they have their own talents.
His sister, Joycy, 20, has always been at the top of her class in school. Álvaro Jr., 19, is a talented artist and singer. Steven, 14, is energetic and also excels at running. And Marianna, 10, “will be great in business,” says her father, Álvaro. “Even if they’re not national champions in something, they can still have the satisfaction of having done their best.”
In fact, Moroni says he looks up to them, especially to his older brother, Álvaro Jr., now serving in the México Puebla Mission.
“I’ve always known that without God’s help I’d be nothing. He gave me the talent,” says Moroni. “I always pray for His help. My life would be so much more difficult without the teachings of the gospel.”
Once Moroni’s feet have helped him spread the gospel through track and field, he hopes they’ll help him spread the gospel in the mission field.
“I believe the things I’m doing as a runner are important to the Lord,” says Moroni. “But serving a mission is more important than running. Serving a mission is one of my goals, independent of whatever else happens in my athletic career.”
So Moroni the sprinter would become Moroni the missionary—having his “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (D&C 27:16).
And just like that, Moroni will trade in his track shoes for his tracting shoes.