Rohann Asfaw, from running to stay in shape to setting new records


Stella Ho

When junior Rohann Asfaw crossed the finish line first at the New Balance Emerging Elite Indoor National Two Mile event, the only thing running through his mind was, he said, “I could not believe that I had won.” Of course, those who have run track and cross country with him are hardly surprised that he broke a record with an astounding time of 9:11.

Asfaw is the most celebrated runner at RM – not only is he fast, but he genuinely loves his sport and is constantly striving to outrun himself. However, when he first started running, he remarked, “the purpose was simply to lose weight. Now, my purpose and goal for running is to continue to improve myself as much as I can.”

The turning point was when he “ finally broke 10 minutes for the 3200 my freshman year. It made me realize my potential and prompted me to get serious about my career,” he reminisced. Part of getting serious about his career was wearing a “Darth Vader” breathing device (as track and cross country coach Davy Rogers coined it) during practice. Well, the running force is certainly with him.

Asfaw’s “Darth Vader” breathing mask helps control breathing which improves lung stamina and oxygen efficiency

Though Asfaw is a star on both the track and cross country teams (he set a new record on the RM cross country course in the fall 2015 season), it is impossible for him to choose a favorite. Cross country, he declared, “provides thrilling and interesting races with constant course changes and different scenery, while track can almost be defined as running in circles.” However, he continued, track is “a lot more competitive than XC… It makes times more relevant, and also, no hills!”

Through all the grueling practices, Coach Rogers has helped Asfaw “stay healthy, get faster, and…taught me many valuable lessons about running. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and I couldn’t ask for a better coach.” he praised. If Asfaw ever qualifies for the Olympics (at this rate, that is not implausible,) who his first pick for coach would be seems pretty obvious.

All the highs and lows led to the prestigious New Balance Emerging Elite Indoor National race. Besides training, the “biggest challenge I faced preparing for this event was getting mentally prepared,” Asfaw commented. To do so, he continued, “I had to convince myself I belonged in the race with the other competitors. I had to convince myself winning wasn’t impossible.”

When he did win, and “looked up at the time on the digital screen and…read 9:11, I was even more shocked. I never would have thought I was capable of running such a time so early,” he remarked. So many runners would give anything to have as much success as Asfaw has had in less than three years.

But what really makes running enjoyable, Asfaw noted, “getting to have fun with my teammates at practice. There are so many unforgettable and fun memories to recall. If I’m having a bad day during school, practice is always there to have something to look forward to.”

Despite having such a stellar track record (both literally and figuratively,) he still “definitely want[s] to improve,” he declared. A runner with such a strong combination of speed and passion for what he does is certainly rare. It seems like Asfaw was born to run.