PAMPLONA, Spain — Ion Barbarin Garcia and Marcos Enriquez Vilches played soccer together at NYIT before both graduating in May.
The Spaniards have been teammates in a different capacity too, often participating together in the Running of the Bulls in their native Pamplona.
"I have been doing it since I am 16," said Barbarin Garcia, who again is participating this past week. "I didn´t like the idea of running in front of the bulls until my friend Marcos Enriquez convinced me one day to run with him. I could say that he is my mentor and the person who taught me everything I need to know to run. I do it every year.
"There are seven races — the first one July 7 and last one July 14. My mom wishes I didn´t run, but she understands it's a passion for me. She wakes up every day at 6 because she is so nervous for the race that she can´t sleep."
Barbarin Garcia admits it can be a nerve-wracking experience.
"It is very scary, but the feelings you get running in front of the bulls you cannot explain with words," he said. "The main goal is to run as close as you can to the bull, but there are a lot of people who are fighting with you to get a good spot in front of the bulls.
"Marcos is the perfect runner. You want to watch and learn from him. Everything I know is because of him. Every race he teaches me new movements in order to get closer to the bull. I owe everything to Marcos, but I still have to learn a lot of things from him. What I most admire is the courage and bravery of Marcos, and the cold blood he has."
A back/midfielder, Barbarin Garcia appeared in 12 matches during his senior season in 2017, starting eight. He scored his lone goal Sept. 11 in a 4-1 victory against Caldwell. He missed six matches in the middle of the season, but returned Oct. 21 against Queens.
"One of my favorite memories is when I played last season after my knee injury," he said. "I was a little upset because everybody told me I would not play that year anymore. And I showed they were wrong and that with hard work you can overcome any obstacle you want."
Enriquez Vilches actually had to miss joining Barbarin Garcia running this time. He is currently in North Carolina, pursuing an MBA.
Barbarin Garcia graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in international business. He just signed a contract to play semi-pro soccer with Sariñena in Spain, so putting the degree to use is on hold.
"This year I am going to be playing soccer and see if I can be a professional," Barbarin Garcia said. "They pay me well, so I am looking forward to seeing what this year brings. I will do an MBA in a few years. Now I think I have the chance to achieve one of my dreams."