1 in 15,000: Nephat Maritim

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He is a former Kenyan decathlete and knows six different languages, although he will tell you that he knows five and a half – the half being Sheng’, a language that is used as slang on the streets of Kenya.

He attended the prestigious Mang’u High School in Kenya as student of the year in 2009, and in May, graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African American Studies, and Romance Languages and Literature.

After this season, Nephat Maritim proved he could do even more as he led the way for the Northeastern men’s cross country team.

Maritim began his collegiate running career as a walk-on for the Harvard track and field team and was red-shirted his freshman year.

He wasn’t always supposed to be a great distance runner.  He joined the Harvard squad with a lot of experience in shorter, faster races – and he excelled in them, quickly becoming one of the Ivy League’s best in the 800-meter run.

However,  Cathrine Erickson, now the head coach of Northeastern’s Cross Country team, saw the potential in him as a distance runner.

“I knew Neph when he was a student-athlete at Harvard and I was an assistant coach,” Erickson said in an email. “While at Harvard, he started training in the long sprints-middle distance crew.  He then started training and competing in the longer events and quickly made great strides.”

As his time at Harvard progressed, Maritim became a very versatile runner, something that is unique in the collegiate level.  He participated in races of various distances, ranging all the way from the 400-meter dash to 10,000-meter run.

Then, when Maritim graduated in May, he had a big decision to make.

Because of his red-shirt freshman year, Maritim still had one year of eligibility left where he could compete in races – it was now a matter of where.

Nephat wanted to go somewhere that was familiar and comfortable to him.

“I did not want to make too many changes in my final year of running in the NCAA,” he said. “I chose NU because of how similar the program is to Harvard and because of how great the coaching staff is. I had heard great things about [Distance] Coach [Matt] Lonergan and I also knew coaches Erickson and [Jack] Brady from Harvard.”

Maritim pointed out that another important factor was that he and the other Northeastern runners shared the same mentality towards what they wanted to accomplish.

“When I came to visit the program during the spring last year I felt very much at home,” he said. “The guys I would be training with were very friendly and I was in sync with the coaches about running goals and our attitude toward the sport.”

The story of the 2015 season for the NU men’s cross country team has been youth. Five of the seven varsity runners for the Huskies in the CAA Championships on Saturday were either freshmen or sophomores. As a graduate student, Maritim has emerged as a leader and role-model for the young runners because of both his experience and his talent. Every race that he has run this year, he has been the first NU runner to cross the finish line.

“[Nephat] is an extremely positive member of our program who has high expectations of himself in addition to being a great mentor to our young men,” Erickson said.

Nevertheless, although Maritim knows that it’s inevitable to be seen as a mentor for the young squad, he points out that he, himself, learns a lot from them as well.

“While I might be someone they look up to, they also inspire me in several innumerable ways,” he said. “Running with the young team doesn’t feel different from running with older teammates because our sport allows us to transcend some of those differences that may be occasioned by age.”

“I think this is one of the gems of participation in intercollegiate athletics as an international,” he added. “It allows you to transcend more than just national boundaries.  I thoroughly enjoy it!”

As he leaves this season behind, Maritim says that he is excited for what this young team is capable of in the next two to three years after he’s gone.

“They’re a fun bunch with a ton of potential,” he said. “Some of them in their freshman year are running as fast as I was doing in cross country during my junior year, if not faster!”

Outside of running, Nephat is currently attempting to obtain his master’s degree in International Economics in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.