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Last updated November 24.

May 17, 2010 issue

EMU runner a model of resolve

By James De Boer Eastern Mennonite University

HARRISONBURG, Va. — When Eastern Mennonite University junior Richy Bikko of Nairobi, Kenya, went to the national meet in his first year running cross country, it was a surprise.

Richy Bikko

Richy Bikko — Photo by Wayne Gehman

To everyone except his first-year head coach, Matt Dougherty, that is.

“In the back of my mind I thought Richy could make it to nationals,” Dougherty said. “It’s hard to explain, but I just had a feeling.”

Although Bikko had inexperience going against him, the native Kenyan had a key ingredient working for him — a strong resolve.

“You think about a lot of things over long runs,” Bikko said. “You think about quitting, and you have to get that out of your mind. If you have a weak resolve, you probably won’t do your best.”

Bikko has a history of strong resolve. In August 1998, when he was in third grade, terrorists detonated a bomb outside of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Bikko’s father, who worked in a neighboring bank, was killed by the blast. Two weeks after the family buried his father, his aunt died.

The losses left the young Bikko feeling alone. He spent two years trying not to think about the paternal void before finally filling it.

“The reason I went to school was just to not be alone,” he said. “Being with my friends helped me not be alone and not think about it. When I was in fifth grade, two years after the bombing, I gave my life to the Lord to have him be my dad.”

Bikko’s mother also had to deal with her response to the losses, which brought her to EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program.

She entered the graduate program in 2005, and Bikko and his younger brother joined their mother in Harrisonburg when their visas cleared.

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