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Diversity key to cross country

by Chris Alcantara, associate editor

HPU has always prided itself on being one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the nation, and that seems to be the key to success for the 2003 Sea Warrior cross country team.

New Head Coach Raul Torres is leading a squad of runners consisting of nine international, seven mainland, and one local runner, junior Kimokeo Bode.


“Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has his or her own disciplines when it comes to running,” said Bode. “But when we’re all together at practice, runners from opposite ends of the globe can give each other input and really build off each other’s knowledge.”

Second only to the tennis team, which has 12 of 14 players coming from abroad, the diversity of the cross country team starts with Coach Torres, originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is joined by: sophomore Vinicius Freitas also from San Paulo, senior Nina Christensen and junior Mikkel Kleis of Denmark, senior Sam Macharia and sophomore William Ngetich of Kenya, sophomore Harald Buerkle of Austria, senior Abdeslam Naji of Morocco, sophomore Masako Sagawa of Japan, junior Janine Brown of the United Kingdom, junior Kendra Byrd and freshman Elizabeth Thompson of California, sophomore Rachelle Miller of Oregon, junior Chris Larson of North Dakota, junior Heather Postema of Michigan, sophomore Aaron Norton of Maine, senior Stephanie Young of Washington, and Bode.

While a lot of effort goes into recruiting, it’s not hard to sell athletes on the idea of coming to Hawai‘i. With the sunshine, beautiful scenery, and many different terrains, the islands are viewed as one of the best atmospheres in which to run and train.

“ The weather conditions are almost perfect. That’s why they hold a lot events like the Ironman Triathlon and things of that kind here,” said HPU’s Sports Information Director Jarnett Lono. “There’s humidity, but it only takes a runner a week or two to get used to it.”

According to Lono, many international runners learn about HPU by word of mouth from former students who came here from abroad and returned to their countries. Prospective mainland athletes have more opportunities as they can easily see or hear about HPU at regional or national competitions. Lono also added that HPU does it’s “homework” on a few areas and then attempts to recruit multiple athletes from them.

“ The Kenyans for example, are a real close-knit group,” said Lono. “When we are recruiting runners from there, even if just one decides to come to HPU, he or she will usually bring a friend or two.”

So far, the team’s ethnic differences have blended beautifully and HPU is quickly becoming the team to beat. The Sea Warrior men’s and women’s team both won the BYU-Hawai‘i and Chaminade Invitational’s to start the season. Most recently, the men’s team gained a third-place finish, while the women’s team came in seventh at the UH-Manoa Big Wave Invitational. The race included strong Division I schools such as UCLA, UC-Santa Cruz, and CSU-San Diego State, making HPU’s performance that much more impressive.

The next race will be HPU’s own event to be held in Kane‘ohe Oct. 11.

“ The many different backgrounds on the team are great for the school because it helps complete HPU’s mission to be a diverse educational institution,” said Lono. “They might be from opposite places in the world, but they can bond over athletics, educate each other, and hopefully even form lasting friendships.”


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