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Doane College senior Sufian Kimo (Norfolk, Neb.) finished 27th at this year's NAIA Cross Country Championship Meet and in the process, earned All-American honors for the second straight year. He is the second Doane men's runner to earn multiple All-American honors.
But for Kimo, this season he truly became an All-American for Doane. In September, before Doane's lone home meet of the year, Kimo received his United States citizenship. He is of Ethiopian descent. The process took about six months to complete, starting in April when he applied for citizenship.
Over the next six months Kimo would file his paper work, provide proper identification that included his green card and Ethiopian passport while also show documentation that he had lived in the United States for at least five years. Once his paper work was approved by the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS), he received notification that he would need to set up an appointment to have finger prints taken, take a test and interview as the next stage of the process.
Helping Sufian along the way was his brother, Ghazali, who had become a citizen in December 2007.
"He is the one who encouraged me to go through the process," says Kimo of his brother's help in the process. "He helped me a lot and has been my closest family here. He is like a father and mother-figure to me."
It was also Ghazali who helped him when he first arrived in the United States during the summer of 1997. He had been on the move quite a bit trying to find a place he could call home and he found one in Nebraska.
Despite the support of his brother, who has taken care of him since he was in eighth grade, he said there was times when he missed his family back home.
"I would sit by myself sometimes and think about my family and I would feel sad," Kimo recalls. "I wondered what it would feel like to have my parents come to sporting events and cheer for me like my teammates had. There were several times when it would bring tears to my eyes when I saw other parents come and support their child or children."
The loneliness, however, only made him stronger and his brother was there for him as much as possible. Ghazali is also the one who encouraged him to attend college. He says what doesn't hurt him only makes him stronger and he has proven to himself that he can do anything.
"My struggles made me who I am."
Now, Kimo is in his final year at Doane and his leadership skills have grown as he has matured. He says his best qualities are just being himself and leading by example. He also has a positive attitude towards others and is respectful.
When recalling his most memorable moments at Doane, he thinks of his friendships with his teammates.
"The moment that stands out in my mind since I've been a Tiger is the national (cross country) meet last year. Being there with my teammates and sharing in the atmosphere with them was great. They were there with me when I earned All-American honors. I think of the little things that I do with my cross country teammates, they are the closest friends I have."
On September 25, Kimo traveled to Omaha to the Nebraska State Court House to pledge his oath. He was accompanied by Doane Head Coach Brad Jenny and says he was really nervous but eager for the day as well.
"It was great to have Coach Jenny on board and along to experience my journey in becoming a citizen of the United States," Kimo said. "My gratitude goes out to all the people who helped me through out the process, especially Coach Jenny and my cross country family and friends."
At a team gathering the evening he received his citizenship, he was presented with the United States flag by his coaches and teammates. The next day at the Dean White Invitational, Kimo was the top collegiate finisher. During the presentation of medals, Coach Jenny introduced him as the newest American in front of his teammates, the fans in attendance and his fellow competitors.
Now, two months since becoming a citizen of the United States, Kimo closed out his career as a two-time Cross Country All-American. He joins Dean White as the only men's cross country runners to earn multiple All-American honors for Doane College. In his final collegiate meet, he posted a time of 25:47 as he placed 27th.
"I am very grateful for everything that has happened to me and I am looking forward to what my life and new country have in store for me."