By WARREN DILLAWAY - firstname.lastname@example.org
What a difference a year made for Edgewood High School graduate Cody Chabola, who helped his Eastern Michigan University cross country team to the Mid-American Conference Championship.
“For me, it was a huge improvement,” the EMU junior said during a holiday visit to Ashtabula. “Last year I didn’t even make the top 9.”
Chabola helped the team to its 17th MAC championship with a 29th-place finish in a time of 25:44. The race was held in Buffalo and occurred on a 4.8-mile course.
Two weeks later, Chabola finished 108th, moving up to fourth on his team, helping Eastern Michigan to a 13th-place finish over a 10,000-meter course at the University of Wisconsin.
Chabola had a unique roommate and mentor to help him improve his running career and act as a reminder of how fortunate we are in America.
Terefe Ejigu grew up in a war-torn Ethiopia where he saw the brutality of war first hand. Ejigu’s mother left Ethiopia for a refugee camp and eventually New Zealand .
Years later, she was able to reunite the family when Ejigu was 13 years old through a family reunification program. The family settled in Wellington, New Zealand, where he became a fantastic runner.
Chabola said his roomate, and potential New Zealand Olympian, keeps him thankful for all he has.
“He’s really a very special person,” he said.
Chabola said Ejigu visited his family for Thanksgiving after Ejigu’s mother and sister spent a month at Eastern Michigan last spring.
The pair ran together a lot this summer with Chabola running long runs and easy runs with Ejigu and separately on harder training days.
The championship team hoped to make a trip to the NCAA National Championship in Louisville but had a sub par day at the regional meet but the team is ready for next year with seven of the top 9 competitors returning.
“It was a good team environment,” Chabola said of the program run by John Goodridge who has led a team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA cross country meet.
“He’s a great coach. I really love running for him. He really has a lot of experience.”
Chabola, a red-shirt junior, has two years of track and one year of cross country to complete his collegiate career. He said he is very happy with his college choice.
“I love the town and the team,” he said.