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Getting To Know Liyat Kebbede

Oct 4, 2022

We sat down with freshman runner Liyat Kebbede for this week's "Getting To Know" feature. The New York native tells us all about her life as a runner as we get to see a new perspective from the lens of someone that traveled across the country to compete for one of the best programs throughout the U.S. Join us and read all about her journey here, her family lineage and why she thinks the West Coast is the best Coast. 
 
Q: What made you want to come to USC? Especially having to travel all the way from New York?
 
LK: I always wanted to go to college in California, even when I was super young, because I hated the cold. And I know it's a little weird, but the weather was so big for me. I also know the schools out here are really good. So it's both an academic and athletic thing for me.
 
Q: Was there a moment that you decided USC was the place to be?
 
LK: Well, I visited really late. When I visited, I immediately said, 'Yeah I'm coming here.'
 
Q: What got you into track and field and cross country?
 
LK: I didn't really like to play many other sports when I was younger and my dad would always run every morning for my entire life. So, I started running with him once a week and I was like, 'I kind of like this.'  Then I joined the sport, in seventh grade, and I really liked it. I mean I didn't have any coordination, so why not try running (laughing). 
 
Q: Would you say that your dad was the inspiration behind your running and does he inspire you to run today? 
 
LK: Yeah, he still runs but he does more marathon style running. I feel like he was the one that once he saw I was good at running, he kept me with it and wanted me to get better and I that helped me want to get better for myself.
 
Q: Whenever you go back to New York, does your dad keep you accountable for running?
 
LK: Yes, he would always make me run over the summer and he's the one that's always coming out with it.
 
Q: Anybody you draw inspiration from?
 
LK: Honestly, it's really just my dad and my mom, those are my two people.
 
Q: In those moments the running gets tough. Is there anything that you tell yourself that keeps you going?
 
LK: I feel like I'm a big team person. If I can't do it for myself, then I'll do it for them. And it can get stressful a lot here, but I feel like all of our teammates are always saying when it gets hard do it for the people next to you. That always keeps me going because I love everyone on the team.
 
Q: What are your perfect running conditions?
 
LK: I only like running when it's warm. That's why I'm here. Not really listening to anything, just nice weather, you know? Not too hot. Not too cold.
 
Q: At what moment did you feel at home here at USC?
 
LK: I came here over the summer and I did a summer session here. I met Ashlee (Gallegos) and the other freshmen. I never had a super close big team, before so I was able to get super close with her super fast. She kept me going and I've never met a runner like her. She's so driven and she doesn't let anything hold her back. So having a teammate like that just made me feel so comfortable and made me know that I can succeed here and that everything was okay. 
 
Q: Was there a moment that you believe the team clicked and everybody seemed to be on the same page? 
 
LK: It was when we went up to camp in Mammoth. We were driving to go on a run and I think it was Jacqui (Jacqueline Duarte) playing a song in the car about home and we were just laughing and having fun. It was only our third day of getting to know each other and it felt like we were so close already. I love that we were all able to come together, so fast. 
 
Q: What are some of the biggest differences that you see between home and here at USC?
 
LK: For sure weather, it's like 40 degrees there and I'm still able to wear shorts and short sleeves. It's so different it almost feels like a different country and the people are so different. The whole vibe is different out here. I see it even being near the big city, as I grew up in a small town in New York, it's much more upbeat and there is a lot more going on. 
 
Q: If you graduated tomorrow, would you go back home or stay here in California?
 
LK: I'd like to stay here because the beach is so close and the city is so close. It has everything and it makes everything.
 
Q: What is your favorite thing to do here in LA?
 
LK: The beach, I actually went to the beach Sunday. I love going. It's so nice because before there was no ocean near me. I also like going on car rides at night through the city. It is so fun.
 
Q: What is your favorite thing that you get to do with the team? 
 
LK: My favorite thing is just going out to dinner and stuff around campus. It's so fun and I like getting dressed up and going out to dinner on the weekends. Things like that, and just hanging out with everyone. It's so different getting to hang out with anyone at any time and there is no one to tell you not too. 
 
Q: What is your favorite food spot so far?
 
LK: City Tacos at the Village is our spot. 
 
Q: What is one fun fact that you want people to know about you? 
 
LK: I do speak three languages. I speak French, English and Amharic since my parents are from Ethiopia. That is the Ethiopians' language.
 
Q: Do you have a bunch of family there then?
 
LK: Yeah, essentially my whole family has lived there for the majority of their lives on both of my parents sides.
 
Q: Okay, so did you guys have a lot of Ethiopian food growing up and stuff like that?
 
LK: My mom always cooks it, not really every weekend, but at least once a month she'd make it. We also would have get-togethers with all of the Ethiopians around the area. We would do this about once a month and it was really fun. 
 
Q: What is your major and what do you want to do once you graduate?
 
LK: I'm majoring in Human Biology, and I am on the pre-med track right now. It's a little tough, but I find it more interesting than anything else. I eventually want to be a doctor, but I'm not sure what kind yet.