Jessica Crawford" />
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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Cross Country

Veteran sprinters help pace cross country team

Senior runner Yonas Tesfai is the cross country team's lone senior this season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Senior runner Yonas Tesfai is the cross country team’s lone senior this season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Senior runner Drevan Anderson-Kaapa and junior runner Yonas Tesfai are no strangers to pressure, but this cross country season could test more than their physical endurance.

In Kaapa’s last year to leave a lasting mark at UH, he hopes to keep from being injured — a problem that has affected him every season since he began collegiate cross country.

“Number one goal: stay healthy. (My priorities are) injury prevention and staying on top of my health, being able to consistently train,” Kaapa said.

Tesfai has served as a top performer for cross country since he arrived.

During his freshman year, he placed third in the mile at the Conference USA Indoor Championships. Last year, he placed 11th in the 8K at the C-USA Cross Country Championships. The pressure is on for him to meet the bar he set for himself with past performances.

“I get nervous, but I  just (need to) stay positive,” Tesfai said. “We have to be there to motivate the freshmen and other classmates.”

Tesfai said he takes a laid-back approach when getting ready for a race.

“We just talk about what the expectation is. The main thing is to have fun with it,” Tesfai said. “We really prepare for it, so whatever happens, happens.”

Kaapa does more than motivate his teammates to perform on the trail. He balances school with work and he earns scholarship-winning grades.

“The discipline that it takes to be a distance runner goes across the board. Most of my scholarships come from academics and private donors,” Kaapa said. … As for working, it’s a balancing act. You got to set your priorities straight.”

This season, Tesfai’s top priority is to cut significant time from his 8K pace.

“My goals are to actually achieve a 23:00 in an 8K, win conference as a team and as an individual and make it to nationals,” he said.

The last person to win the championship ran the 8K in 23:32. Tesfai is gunning for the top spot.

Kaapa, whom his teammates call “The Machine,” said that cross country brings him more than just the thrill of competing.

“The funniest things happen and they only happen during cross country season — just the team bonding and all the fun you have with your teammates,” Kaapa said.

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