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Surrey teen runner is on a record-setting path

Yemane Mulugeta is a track standout after discovering running at L.A. Matheson Secondary
Runner Yemane Mulugeta crosses the finish line during a recent race. The Surrey teen, who moved here from Eritrea, competes at a national level after just a few years of running. (Photo courtesy Sport BC)

Surrey teen Yemane Mulugeta already holds multiple Canadian records for running in his U20 age group, with goals of more gold at track and cross-country events to come.

No question, the accomplishments are many and impressive for the 18-year-old, who got involved in the sport just a few years ago, not long after arriving in Canada as a refugee from war-torn Eritrea.

This spring he’s planning to graduate from L.A. Matheson Secondary, where he began on his running path at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. During gym class he and some other students ran a two-kilometre route along the school perimeter. Stopwatch in hand, one teacher couldn’t believe how fast Yemane finished the two laps, and word spread.

Soon enough, the kid was invited to join the school’s fledgling cross-country running club, coached by teacher Mark Corbishley.

“He was fast, and we could see that very clearly,” the teacher said of Yemane (pronounced ye-MON-ay). “We raced once day, and he pretty much ripped it up — there’s no other way to describe it. I just asked him, ‘Hey, have you run before?’ He’s like, ‘no,’ and then approached me asking if he could do a race. That’s where it started for him.”

Since then, after plenty of training, the school team won the 2023 South Fraser senior boys cross-country championship banner. On his own, Yemane was nominated by BC Athletics for High School Male Athlete of the Year, and in February won BC Athletics’ U20 Male Athlete of the Year award.

It’s been quite a run for Yemane, who came to Canada in 2019, just before COVID.

“I’m with my family, new everything, the language is different, it’s scary, but now it’s better,” he said.

Yemane just loves to run.

“It’s fun. You travel to different environments, and then you meet new people, friends — I have lots of those now.”

L.A. Matheson Secondary running club coach Mark Corbishley, left, with student-athlete Yemane Mulugeta, who was recently nominated by BC Athletics for High School Male Athlete of the Year in the province. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Corbishley helps train Yemane with the help of Ted De St. Croix, a coach at South Surrey’s Ocean Athletics track & field club.

“I know when he first came here, there was fear, there was anxiety, there was worry,” Corbishley said. “Developing that community around running has been great for him and has been great for me, because I got to learn a lot from Yemane and his coaches and the kids that he runs with. That’s helped me to build a program of running here at L.A. Matheson with the support of a star athlete.”

With the spring track season in full swing, Yemane runs on both sides of the border.

“He now has his Canadian citizenship, so he is eligible for national teams,” noted De St. Croix. “This weekend we’re headed down to the Oregon Relays, a big track and field meet for high school students, and Yemane will be there. He’s training hard and has his goal for the year. The national championships are in Montreal in June.

“He’s principally 5K, 5,000-metre type runner who does the occasional 1,500,” De St. Croix added. “He recently broke the Canadian road record for half-marathon and 5K. They don’t actually recognize the half-marathon as a record, but he’s now got the top time, but the 5K is official, recorded a few weeks ago. He’s ranked number one so he should be a medalist at nationals and we’re expecting him to do well. He’s got a terrific attitude, great work ethic, very respectful, and he’s very easy to coach, very coachable.”

At school, Yemane trains five days a week in Corbishley’s Human Performance class, focused on strength training, cardiovascular fitness, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. He also self-trains, either in the gym or on the road, running.

Yemane’s motto: Hard work pays off.

“There have been a number of schools who have been asking about him,” Corbishley said of Yemane’s scholarship opportunities. “I mean, he holds four Canadian national records for the U20 age category, so you can imagine how much interest there is. We’re kind of just filtering it right now, and making sure the focus is on education and that he’s ready for the NCAA. He’s only 18 years old, there’s no rush. The plan is to take things slow. We both say that whatever God’s vision is for Yemane, that’s what it will be.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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