Nduwimana runs into UA record books
Ryan A. Mihalyi
Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA sophomore track and field sprinter Patrick Nduwimana practices yesterday at Roy P. Drachman Track Stadium. Nduwimana qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters and will try to qualify for the 1,500 meters this weekend at the Jim Click Shootout.
It's an honor for a coach to see his players cross the finish line with winning results. It was even more of an honor for UA track and field associate head coach Fred Harvey to see sophomore Patrick Nduwimana cross the 400-meter dash finish line last weekend at the Willie Williams Classic with a time of 46.32 seconds.
Not only was he beaming with pride because this was an NCAA qualifying mark for Nduwimana, it was also the fourth fastest finish time in UA history. But even more to the point, Nduwimana was following the exact footsteps Harvey ran on the track in the 400m years ago.
"It was a really, really good performance," Harvey said. "I've always thought that in coaching my event, the defining point of being a good coach for me would be if I could coach someone to run even faster than I did.
"It's a pleasure to have that quality of an athlete under my coaching in Patrick."
In Harvey's collegiate days, he competed in the 400m with a personal best at 46.7 seconds, and improved his time to 45.78 in post collegiate running.
"I have no question in mind that he'll (Patrick) run faster than that," Harvey said.
It was this style of coaching that brought Nduwimana across the seas from Bujumbura, Burundi, to compete in the U.S. as a Wildcat.
Nduwimana's friend and '96 Olympic gold medalist, Venuste Niyongabo, played a key role in recruiting Nduwimana to the states.
"He was from my country," Nduwimana said. "And he came here for training and told me he liked this place (UA)."
So Nduwimana got in touch with the UA coaching staff and began his collegiate career last spring after spending his first year in America adjusting from his native French language to studying and learning English.
"This is the best place for me," Nduwimana said of UA. "Well, besides there being 'no place like home.'"
Nduwimana graduated from Lycee Kamenge High School in 1996 where he competed in both the 400m and 800m. He also competed with a top time in the 800m of 1:42.68 at the World Junior Championships and African Athletic Championships, both in 1996.
In fact, it is not even this record finish in the 400m that Nduwimana is most focused on, but rather his attention is focused on the 800m.
"Today my focus is on the 800, my specialty," he said. "I had to achieve that time in the 400 because if I'm not able to run a 46, then I will never reach my 800 speed.
"The 800 I want to run is going to require continuous speed from me as one long sprint."
Harvey backed Nduwimana's dedication to continue improving in his running, saying his talents in multiple events makes him "the ideal athlete."
"He's real team oriented," Harvey said. "And as an individual, he has the most amazing athletic range.
"He proved he could run and qualify in the 400m last weekend, he will most likely earn NCAA times in the 1500m this week and he still has his 800m."
Nduwimana will race the 1,500m in the Jim Click Shootout this weekend at Roy P. Drachman Stadium.
Harvey attributed much of Nduwimana's successful work ethic to his background.
"He's from a third world country and he wants to be successful and has that opportunity," Harvey said. "He takes everything a lot more serious than most."
Although away from home, Nduwimana still keeps Burundi close to his heart, most recently competing for his country at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships a couple of weeks ago.
"I had so much pride running for my country, just like I do my school," he said. "It was a chance for me to race among world class runners and challenge myself to see where I fit in and boost my confidence for the season to come."
Nduwimana was pleased with his effort at the World meet, but did not advance to the finals because he was put into a faster heat than he should have competed with, he said.
Nduwimana also said it is his goal to be back at the World Championships this summer, this time competing in the outdoor events.
Harvey confirmed that Nduwimana has the support and confidence from himself and the rest of the team to be there.
"He's a team player," Harvey said. "Just the other day he asked me, 'What will be the most valuable place for me to score in for the team this weekend?'
"It's not often that you get a player who his willing to put his team's best and well being before his own like Patrick does."
Kate Longworth can be reached at Kate.Longworth@wildcat.arizona.edu.