Oct. 20, 2011
FRESNO, Calif. - Cross country is a sport that very few people understand. Running is something that most sports teams use as a training tool. Fresno State cross country runner, Paul Zwama has a completely different outlook on the concept of running and has jumped over a few hurdles to get the opportunity to run for a college in the United States.
Zwama began running with his dad when he was 14. He was a competitive volleyball player at the time and played at a high level. His dad offered for him to join in on a run, so Zwama decided to give it a try.
"I'm a competitor in everything I do and I could not stand to lose to my dad. But before I knew it I was miles behind him, said Zwama. "So a couple weeks later I went again and kept going until I was finally able to beat him and then by that point I started to like it.
"I began getting addicted to running, addicted to getting personal records and most importantly addicted to beating other people, the feeling of all that was indescribable. I had never experienced a better feeling than that in my life."
Moving to the United States from the Netherlands to run was not an easy task for Zwama. At the age of 19, Zwama was going to attend Boise State. He came to the U.S. to visit the University and to take his SAT's and ACT's. The scores took a little too long to return and Zwama's three month tourist Visa expired so he was forced to move back to the Netherlands.
About seven months later a coach from Baltimore contacted Zwama and convinced him to give returning to the US to run another shot. Zwama did so and the day before he was to leave for Baltimore the head coach he had been speaking with resigned. Zwama decided to travel to the U.S. regardless and ran in Baltimore for a couple of years.
In November 2008, Zwama began to strongly think about transferring in pursuit of a College that would help him advance in cross country and focus on his career. That was when he made the decision to email Fresno State cross country head coach Sean McManus. Four weeks later Zwama flew to California and landed in Fresno to attend Fresno State.
Although McManus only had a few short weeks to figure out how to get Zwama enrolled within a one month time span, he figured it out and made it happen.
"Paul has been a great asset to our team. Not only has he been a top finisher for us on the track by winning conference championships and qualifying for nationals, but he leads by example. Nobody on our team trains as hard or puts in the volume of work that Paul does. It helps the younger guys realize if they want to succeed in this sport at the Division I level, that is the type of work ethic and commitment that it takes," said McManus. "He is also a tremendous student and I know the characteristics that helped him become a great runner will help him succeed in his career and life beyond athletics."
Zwama grew a deeper and stronger passion for cross country when he moved to America because in order to achieve success in cross country in America you have to focus on building a strong program as a whole. In the Netherlands it is more of an individual sport.
"In cross country you try to fight for somebody else, for a cause, a greater cause than just your own performance," Zwama said.
Zwama wishes people knew more about cross country and all the preparation and training involved.
"I wish people knew how awesome it is and what people have to do in order to get there. Cross country running is so different from anything else. I wish people understood what we go through to get where we are and how much work we put in as a team and as individuals to run a cross country meet," Zwama said. "There is a lot more to it than just running five miles on grass and I wish people took the time to get to know what cross country is all about."
Everything the Fresno State cross country team does is done with dedication and heart. Whether they succeed or fail they are dedicated to the end. Zwama has come a long way to become the person he is today and has been forced to take some risks but he values the decisions he has made and believes he has made the right ones.
"We Are Your Team!" - For all the up to date information on the Fresno State cross country team log on to gobulldogs.com. You can always stay connected with Fresno State Athletics on Facebook and Twitter (@FSAthletics).
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