Getting To Know Neftalem Araia

April 3, 2008

Neftalem Araia prepares for his final season at Stanford. The red-shirt senior has been an instrumental member of the Stanford cross country and track teams since arriving on the farm.

Araia is a five-time All-American at Stanford, including a national runner-up finish at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships. He has also been a standout off the track where he graduated with a degree in communications and has begun his graduate studies in sociology. In February he was awarded a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, a prestigious honor given to student-athletes in their final year of intercollegiate athletics who have excelled both athletically and academically.

Quoting Nef:
On Friday's 10,000 meters, his first race of the season-
'The Stanford Invite marks the opening of my 2007 outdoor track season -my last track season for the Cardinal. I'm racing the 10000m Friday night. After training all winter without a race, I'm looking forward to breaking the rust off. I've accomplished some of my most challenging training to date, but I won't be showing all those cards tomorrow. The race tomorrow evening will be an opportunity to run a qualifying mark and to build confidence. Yet, a 6.2 mile race is a long way. I may get excited and try to win!'

On his teammates-
'Several Cardinal athletes will be debuting their outdoor seasons this weekend. It'll be a great opportunity to see each other strut some of the work each of us has put in this winter. Some very exciting things have been accomplished in practice; so I'm looking forward to see what happens when the spikes come on and the heart starts pumping fast.'

On his last season at Stanford-
'For many of us this is the beginning of our last season. Each race is a bittersweet reminder that our time at Stanford is almost done. Those of us that remain have truly enjoyed and made the most of this experience. The outcomes of each of our races will be a delight and will most probably please the crowd.'

Quick Hits with Nef-
The Thing that you love the most about running?
I've been running for more than half my life, and it never ceases to present new challenges. The mental, physical, and emotional challenges that manifest when I've set a goal and work to achieve it have birthed numerous opportunities to grow as a person of strong character. Most importantly, my desire to set more goals has yet to be satiated!

What sports other than XC/Track that you played growing up?
At the middle school I attended 6th graders couldn't play basketball. We could run cross country, track-and-field, or wrestle. Every weekend the neighborhood kids and I played basketball; so when I found out I wouldn't be able to play I was pretty down. My friends suggested I run. I agreed, but I refused to wear anything but basketball shoes for the first month and a half of practice. To this day I blame that season for having orthotics now.

Favorite thing about Stanford?
Reflecting on my five years at Stanford, I love that people don't assume the worst about each other. ...or maybe I've just been fortunate to have good people around me.

Favorite Place on the Stanford campus?
It's hard to say that I have one favorite place on the whole campus, but lately I've been spending a lot of time in Soto 110. It's a really cool dorm room.

Favorite Class at Stanford?
My favorite course at Stanford has to be Feminist Studies 120x. It was my first introduction into identity politics. The teacher blew my mind every lecture. Other than my 3rd grade teacher (who taught me how to multiply) Lisa Arrellano has probably been one of my most influential teachers.

Greatest Piece of Advice you have received?
'Look past yourself to see the bigger picture. The bigger picture has the power to give you purpose, meaning, and strength.' -Dad

What is in your Ipod right now?
Marbel Rocel 'Speed Emotions', The Knife 'Silent Shout', and M.I.A. 'Kala' are three albums I can't stop listening to. I highly recommend them.

Favorite Food?
I love my mom's traditional Eritrean cooking. In fact, she's overnighting me some tomorrow! I can't wait.

Favorite Movie?
I like the Matrix Trilogy and the Scary Movie series. In general, I think you can find most answers to life in one of those 7 movies. If not, you can defer to Kill Bill 1 or 2, Gojira, or Super Sailor Moon R.

Funniest Teammate?
Our team has become increasingly smaller, but one gem still remains - Russell Brown. When he tries to be funny he's not that funny, but when he gets riled up on his own.. it's one of the funniest things I've ever witnessed.

What will you be doing in 10 years?
Once college and running end, I plan to use academic work to create opportunities for social change and peace in the Horn of Africa.

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