Liberty Flames sprinter plans for 2020 Olympics

Joel Isimeme | Liberty News Service
HOME — Zapata ran in the Olympics for Colombia.

Becoming a fast runner is no easy feat, and neither is holding 2019’s fastest 500m time in the world. Alejandro Perlaza Zapata, Liberty’s top 400-500m runner has done just that and more.

Zapata grew up in Colombia and began running at a young age, but did not start participating in track and field until 2010. He recognized the need to train to be faster when he entered his first league and lost. Once he started training, there was no stopping him.

“Running opened up opportunity, so I can support my family and so I can support me,” Zapata said. “Track and field is my all for me.”

After competing in the 2016 Olympics for Colombia, Zapata is now training for the 2020 Olympics.

Since his appearance in the 2016 Olympics, Zapata has run the fastest 500m in the world for 2019 at a quick 1:01.35, which is just over a second slower than the world record, which stands at 1:00.06. Zapata has also climbed within one second of the world record 400m time. His 400m best is 44.86 seconds, while the world record is 43.03 seconds.

Zapata’s training has changed since coming to the states with a new coach. In Colombia, Zapata focused purely on endurance. At Liberty, he focuses more on building speed.

“Being able to see him transition from one culture to another is amazing,” Liberty track Coach Pete McFadden said. “He has embraced that and taken on challenges on and off the track, and then also the training. “

In May 2018, at the Big South Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Zapata won the 400m race and earned his 44.86
personal best. 

Andrew Snyder | Liberty News Service
SPEED— Zapata holds 2019’s world’s fastest 500m time and is one second away from the world record.

Zapata said he would never forget that experience.

“When I ran 44, that was a big moment,” Zapata said. “It was crazy and exciting, and I felt so happy, so I couldn’t believe that it happened.”

Zapata is now training for the future, and he believes this will help him provide for himself and his family. Many people ask Zapata why he came to Liberty, which is partly because his mom wanted him to come here and pursue a relationship with the Lord.  

“It is God’s plan, and I love it,” Zapata said.  “I love Liberty, and I love my team. I love everything about Liberty and everyone in it.” 

Zapata has been dominating the track during the 2018-2019 indoor season with four first-place wins, including his incredibly fast 500m showing at the Liberty Kickoff meet Jan. 25-26, 2019. 

Zapata will be competing in the ASUN Indoor Track Championships Feb. 22-23, 2019, which will be hosted at the Liberty University Indoor Track.

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