Running to Inspire

Junior hopes to lead cross country team to first conference title


C. Tedrow

Junior Parker Mimbela runs at a Sept. 11 meet at Ben Davis.

Bella Hodges, Staff Writer

As the Olympic season began this year, commercials advertising athletes’ stories that competed at the historic event aired as they do every Olympics. One in particular hit home for varsity cross country runner Parker Mimbela, who runs an average of 40-50 miles per week.

Jessica Long, a 5-time paralympic swimmer, had her legs amputated below the knees at 18 months old, enduring 25 surgeries since the initial amputation. Toyota partnered with her to show that there is hope and strength in everyone, no matter the circumstances.

For Mimbela, this commercial resonated with him.

“I think about the other people that go through things that are a lot tougher than my condition,” Mimbela said. “There are athletes and celebrities that went through some things, and they’re still out there performing well.”

Mimbela was diagnosed with Alopecia in middle school, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. With the condition developing in 2016, he noticed that his hair began to fall out more and more each day.

“At first, I didn’t really know what it was, until we saw a doctor- and a few other doctors- and then they explained it to me. They don’t know what the cause of it is. There is a bunch of research that’s trying to be done on it,” Mimbela said. “I think it’s helped me grow as a person and not just with running, but with everything. I don’t really care about it anymore, and it’s a part of me now that I have to accept. It’s very rare, and there’s different levels to it. For some people it could just be spots. For me, it’s on a higher level where it’s almost full body.”

Mimbela has had early season success, recording his first-ever high school win at this year’s Terre Haute Saving Banks State Preview. The race took place on the Lavern Gibson Course, where Mimbela and his teammates hope to return to vie for a state title at the end of the season.

“I think at the State Preview I was shocked honestly, because I thought it was going to be a lot harder of a win, but I knew before the meet that with the competition there, I could win,” Mimbela said.

He continued his win streak at the Ben Davis Invitational, where tomorrow’s conference meet will be held.

“[Winning] for a second time, I feel like it was way better, just to continue the streak. It helps me for the MIC meet because there will be even bigger competition,” he said.

Cross country coach Howard Harrell has taken notice of Mimbela’s improvement.

“Parker won the ‘Best Teammate Award’ last year. That award summarizes who he is,” Harrell said. “Parker has really taken a big step forward over the track season. He has adopted the mindset that he needs to run up front. He is always positive.”

At MIC this Saturday, Mimbela will face his biggest challenge of the year in Carmel’s Kole Mathison, the number one runner in the state according to the IN CC STATS website. Mimbela, ranked 13th, hopes to continue his recent success at conference and place top two at the state meet.

“I definitely want to get top two; the competition is really big,” Mimbela said. “I’ll be going up against the second-fastest runner in the state, Kole Mathison. It’s going to be challenging for the team as well, but we are going for the win.”

With his focus solely on his personal success and the team’s goals of winning a state title, Alopecia is not something Mimbela thinks about anymore. However, he recognizes those who are inspired by his success.

“I was at a national meet in 2019, and I was talking to a kid before I ran my mile race in Sacramento,” Mimbela said. “He asked me if I had [alopecia] and I said ‘yeah.’ He said ‘my younger sister has it, and she’s awesome. She saw you walking around and wanted me to come over here and talk to you.’ You know, there’s other people out there watching, especially in track and cross country, and it made me feel really good before my race that she was gonna see me.”