Tim Holman remembers the first time he met Yared Nuguse.
“The P.E. teacher came to me and said, ‘I’ve got this kid that’s pretty fast,’ so I went and picked him out of the hallway,” Holman recalled.
The ensuing conversation between the Manual High School cross country coach and the then-freshman went like this:
“You doing anything?” Holman asked.
“Yeah, just science fair,” Nuguse responded.
“You like to run?”
“Alright, then why don’t you come out and run for me.”
The rest is history.
Nuguse, now a senior, is one of the top runners in the state. Last fall he finished sixth at the Class 3-A state cross country meet, then in the spring he won the 1,600-meter run at the 3-A state track meet.
“I knew pretty early on he was a pretty special talent,” Holman said. “He’s just been a great kid to coach for these three years.”
The Courier-Journal: Tell us about how you got started running?
Yared Nuguse: Originally I didn’t plan on doing any sports in high school, but after running in P.E. freshman year, my P.E. teacher (Mick Motley), he suggested me to the track coach, which was at the time Holman. …So Holman came out and asked me and then I said, sure, I would try it. I didn’t have much else to do anyway. I did bowling, but I wasn’t like terribly great at it. That’s pretty much how it started. Ever since then I found out I was actually decent at running, and I really liked all the people, so I just stayed for that.
How did you do in your first meet?
My first track meet I ran like an 11-minute 2-mile, which for me I thought was great because I’d never run anything before. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It was a JV race so I was one of the better runners, so I was like, ‘Whoa, I beat all these people.’ I felt good about that.
What’s your goal in cross country this year?
Definitely to be the state champion, but time-wise to get near 15-flat or sub-15 somewhere near the end. (His personal-best right now is 15:35)
What was it like to win State in the 1,600?
I had never won a race that big before so it was really intense. When I was coming near the end I was like, ‘Wait, I actually have a shot at winning this.’ It felt really exhilarating when I was done with it. I was like, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ I was just really happy. I was kind of sad I had two more races to do after that. But it was still fun, actually seeing all your hard work amount to something that great.
Is running something you want to do in college?
It definitely is. I’ve been looking at a few colleges. I’m still kind of deciding, trying to find a balance between athletics and academics.
What schools are you interested in?
I’m looking at Notre Dame, U-Penn, Cincinnati and I just started looking into Brown.
What do you want to major in?
I plan on majoring in a general science like biology or chemistry. … I ultimately want to become an orthodontist or a dentist.
I think it’s because I grew up with really, really messed up teeth. The orthodontist that I had, he seemed like he was really having fun with what he was doing, like constantly having contact with his patients. He seemed like a really out-going, fun guy. Plus, it pays well, so that’s nice.
Your teammate, Alena Sapienza-Wright, is a reigning state champ in cross country, do you ever ask her for advice?
I do ask her how she stays so healthy, especially eating-wise. She never seems to throw up or feel too terrible after a race. So I’m like, ‘What’s your secret?’
What’s your guilty pleasure food?
Definitely pizza, but I don’t really feel guilty about it. If I’m hungry, I need to get bigger anyway and I really like pizza, so pizza’s my go-to food.
YARED NUGUSE UP CLOSE
Sports: Cross country & track
Student-athlete: Yared, who has a 3.9 GPA and whose favorite subject is math, is a member of the Latin Honor Society and orchestra at Manual.
Family: Yared, 17, lives with his mother, Mana Berhe; his father, Alem and his twin siblings, Alula, and Zebeeb, both 16.
Manual coach Tim Holman says: He doesn’t really have any fear. A lot of kids are scared. They get to that point of pain in a race, where it really hurts and they back off, and he’s always been one of those kids that just fights through. When he finishes a race you don’t have any doubt he’s given you everything he has that day. And that’s just an innate sense of guts that he has. Obviously he’s got some real natural talent and just has a real gift, but that combination is amazing. Once he learns more about race strategy and pacing, he’s developed a lot over the last three years, but he will definitely flourish at the collegiate level because he’s still relatively new to the sport, which is scary.