Rwaheru fighting back from injury to prepare for Olympics

Merdedes Trent

Deus Rwaheru said he’s never afraid. 

After moving from Kampala, Uganda, to Bowling Green his sophomore year and sustaining an IT band injury — an arm injury — that put him out of the spring track and field season his junior year, the senior Rwaheru was fearless when he finally competed again.

 Rwaheru captured first place at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic on Sept. 3, with his high finish boosting the WKU men’s cross country team to its first win since 2008. 

His performance in Memphis also earned him the Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Runner of the Week Award. 

While he tries to build on that success to do well this season, he’s also hoping it will help prepare him to try out for Uganda’s Olympic team in the spring.

“Right now this cross country (season) is a building block for my next year,” he said. “I’d love to go home and run for my country.”

Head Coach emeritus Curtiss Long acknowledges Rwaheru’s Olympic ambition as a “high goal” and added that it will be “difficult.” That’s because Rwaheru is busy completing a degree in economics and running while those he’d be competing against for a spot can simply “eat, sleep, and run.”

“I really admire him for his dedication to his academics,” Long said. “He is accomplishing outstanding things on the track while being very, very motivated in the classroom.”

Rwaheru is aware of the competition he’ll face, but said he’s not intimidated, adding that he’s “never scared.” 

The injury is still a fresh challenge for Rwaheru, who had to work all summer to overcome it and prepare for this cross country season.

But teammate Kyle Chettleburgh said he’s impressed by Rwaheru’s progress.

“He struggled over the summer,” Chettleburgh said “It shows how his dedication and hard work came together.”

 Rwaheru also remains mindful of the toll his injury may take on the rest of the season and his need to overcome it for the Olympic tryouts. 

“Right now, I can’t speculate,” Rwaheru said. “It depends on how my body heals. If my body heals, I’ll be prepared to run for nationals.”

Qualifying for the NCAA National Championships is the ultimate goal for Rwaheru in his final cross country season. Last season, Rwaheru placed 14th in regionals but did not qualify for a bid to the NCAA Championship. 

But Long said he encourages Rwaheru in his pursuit of his goal. 

“We want him to perform well and we want him to take people with him (to the championship),” Long said. 

Last season the Toppers sent one competitor to the NCAA Championship — Shadrack Kipchirchir.

Along with Kipchirchir, Rwaheru also looks up to Patrick Cheptoeck, a former WKU runner who graduated last year but still continues to train with Rwaheru. The two knew each other back in Uganda but didn’t compete together until they got to the Hill.

“He is one of the people who keeps my spirits high,” Rwaheru said.

Rwaheru said keeping his motivation strong will be the key to accomplishing his dreams this year.

“It’s easy to lose focus on your running and become demotivated,” said Rwaheru. “You have to motivate yourself. I’m just keeping my hopes high.”