No More Dust on His Running Shoes

First-year student Kevin Prince left his home in the sandy deserts of Qatar to attend Southern Virginia University and run for the men’s cross-country team.

Having previously competed only in cross-country meets in Middle Eastern countries, Prince not only is adjusting to university life, but also to the hills and humidity in Virginia.

“[In Qatar,] it is dusty and the sun is very bright,” Prince said. “I wore sunglasses to help reduce the glare and help me relax. It’s also different because there are not hills to run on [in Qatar], and we had to go to some underpasses to get our hill training in. We are running in beautiful country here compared to desert fields.”

Born in Houston, Texas, Prince lived there until he was six years old when his family moved to the United Kingdom. Three years later a new work assignment took his father — and the rest of the family — to Doha, Qatar, where he has spent the last eight years.

“Growing up in Doha was very different than growing up in the states,” Prince said. “It is a little strange here with church on Sundays, because over in Qatar the weekend was Friday through Saturday, with church on Friday.”

When Prince first moved to Qatar, he was the oldest youth in what was then just a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since that time, the branch has grown into two wards with about 25 youth, many of whom attended the American School of Doha with him.

He first began running cross-country in eighth grade, but did not become serious until his freshman year of high school when he ran on the varsity team. Since that time, Prince has come to love the sport; his senior year he even served as team captain.

“Running has given me a lot of self-discipline,” Prince said. “Not only that, but I have become much more confident overall.”

The American School of Doha, as part of Eastern Mediterranean Activities Conference, competes with 16 other international American schools located in 11 Mediterranean countries. Each year his school sends men’s and women’s varsity and junior varsity teams, with five runners on each, to compete at the EMAC tournament. The twenty runners spend the weekend in the designated country competing against other American curriculum schools’ sports teams.

“In Qatar, we only have a competition once a year, with the schools in the EMAC, which selects a country where the sport competes,” Prince said. “So I have gone to Dubai, Bahrain, Cairo and Kuwait for tournaments the last four years.”

With average temperatures in Qatar well over 100 degrees, Prince trained early in the mornings. He said that although the weather in Virginia is generally more humid than Qatar, it is much cooler than in the Middle East.

Because it is so hot in the Middle East, the regional cross-country season runs from October through February. Last fall, when the Southern Virginia cross-country coach, Leslie McKinney, asked about Prince’s season, she was surprised to learn he had not yet started.

The season turned out to be a stellar one. His team won first place in the 2009 EMAC cross-country tournament, and he placed first in the 5K race with a personal best time of 17:17.

“I’m definitely learning a lot more [at Southern Virginia] than I ever learned over there, because over there cross-country isn’t as serious as it is in some parts of the states,” Prince said.

Prince decided to attend Southern Virginia after participating in EFY here last summer. He liked the small university, the natural beauty surrounding the school and the large proportion of Latter-day Saint students.

“I like attending a school with a high LDS ratio, because it has been a long time since I’ve been around so many LDS members my age,” Prince said.

Coach McKinney looks forward to working with Prince. She sees the potential he and other incoming runners have for contributing to the team.

Prince and the rest of the Southern Virginia men’s cross-country team are aiming to dethrone Dine College, which took home last year’s NAIA cross-country national championship title.