Kirubel Bogale shares his track story

Bogale reflects on what it’s like to be a Black athlete in majority-white schools

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Kirubel Bogale in his starting position on the SFU track.
From basketball court to track: Boagle is finding his footing with the track team after making the switch during high school. Photo: Krystal Chan / The Peak

By: Luke Faulks, Staff Writer

Hometown: Delta, BC 

Favourite Athlete: Lebron James 

Kirubel Bogale, a freshman on SFU’s track and field team, picked up running in high school. Despite getting a late start to his career, Bogale’s spot on SFU’s track team is nothing short of impressive. 

The middle-distance runner has found success in his first run with the team. Bogale placed ninth in the mile at the Indoor Greater Northwest Conference Championship on February 26, and has consistently improved his personal best. 

“I started running in grade 11, after what felt like a millennium of constant hounding from my Ethiopian parents and high school basketball coaches to give track a try,” Bogale said in an interview with The Peak. He turned competitive the following year.

Bogale said he likes to prepare for a race with an “easy warmup jog followed by some drills and strides to get the legs loose.” To keep him dialed in, Bogale pictures himself along different points in the race. “I always visualize how I want the race to play out before the gun goes off which keeps me mentally locked in and ready to go.” 

He noted that while not all of his wins came with a medal, “A good chunk of high school athletes train their entire lives and don’t end up running post-secondary.” He added, “I’m very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make a college team with such little experience at the time.” 

Bogale also spoke about his experience in and out of the sport.

“I think that track is a sport where being Black doesn’t mean there are any extra barriers to get over, but I wouldn’t say the same for other sports that are dominated by one race, such as baseball or hockey,” he said. “This isn’t to say that these barriers don’t exist, but rather that I find it hard to try and marginalize a community that excels to such a high degree in the sport — [which] Black people do in track.”

With a larger Black student population, SFU has been a breath of fresh air in comparison to high school for Bogale. He said, “It gives the slightest bit more of a sense of belonging knowing that you’re not the only person that looks like you. 

“I would say that the experience of being a Black athlete at SFU is different than it was in high school, but still relatively representative of being a Black person in the Vancouver area in general. With such a small Black population in the Lower Mainland, it’s very easy for someone like me to stand out in any setting I’m in.” He added this means he’s more likely to experience  “microaggressions and subtle things that remind you that you’re still a minority in the community.”

In addition to his coaches and family, the track team is a pillar of support for Bogale. He describes a close-knit track team. “I think that there are many extra barriers to being a Black person in society, but as an athlete, I’ve been fortunate to have not seen those same barriers in my training environment.” 

While he’s still undecided on what to pursue after earning his computing science degree, Bogale ensures he plans on staying attached to his sport. “I know well in my heart that I’ll be running and staying fit regardless of if I pursue anything professionally or competitively.”