Mohamed Hrezi finishes up ISU cross-country career; love for running remains


Hayley Hochstetler/Iowa State Daily

Senior Mohamed Hrezi runs amidst a group of runners from other schools during the regional cross-country meet on Friday, Nov. 15, in Ames. Hrezi finished fourth in the men’s 10K race, earning himself a trip to the national meet.

Ryan Young

For senior runner Mohamed Hrezi, distance running wasn’t always his specialty.

In fact, prior to coming to Iowa State, Hrezi was mainly a track runner.

Hrezi transferred to Iowa State two years ago, after completing two years at Central Connecticut State. He originally was expecting to transfer to Texas after deciding to leave Central Connecticut State, but that fell through.

After that, he was left without much of an idea of where to go.

“I knew that I wanted to transfer, but I just didn’t know where I wanted to go,” Hrezi said. “After Texas fell through, I was pretty unsure of where I was going to go. But a recruiter was at my house one day from Iowa State talking to my little brother. He found out that I was looking to transfer, and he invited me to come check it out.”

Hrezi then came for a visit to campus, and knew very quickly that Iowa State was the school for him.

“After the first day, I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, I want to come to Iowa State,’” Hrezi said. “I just loved the atmosphere and energy here. It was the place I wanted to be.”

Hrezi joined then-ISU coach Corey Ihmels’ team in 2011, and started training for the next track season like he normally would.

Then something happened that changed everything.

“It was really funny because we became really good friends when we transferred. We didn’t know that many people and we started running with each other in the mornings,” said ISU women’s runner Samantha Bluske. “We were both putting in 100 miles a week or more, and I could just see how bad he wanted to succeed at running. He wanted to be an All-American so bad.”

Hrezi’s hard work paid off, and during the 2012 cross-country season, he was one of the top finishers at the Midwest Regional meet, earning All-Region honors. He was also one of the top finishers at the Big 12 Championships that season, and at the Roy Griak Invitational.

After his first season at Iowa State, even Hrezi’s friends and teammates could see that his running was really starting to improve.

“It’s only going to move in a positive direction from here,” Bluske said of Hrezi’s running. “I don’t know what that means for sure, but I think the sky is really the limit with what he wants to do with running. He is just starting to tap into his potential bright future.”

Prior to the start of this year’s season, Hrezi began celebrating Ramadan, as he does every year. Ramadan, a month-long celebration in the Islamic faith, requires a fast from sun up to sun down.

This would create a challenge for any athlete in training, but Hrezi found an interesting way around that.

“I actually ended up sleeping all day, and then training at night,” Hrezi said. “Fast would break at about 9 each night, and we would eat and have prayer. So by the time I was actually out running, it was like one or two in the morning. It was pretty weird running down Welch [Avenue] at night like that. There are a lot of drunk students making fun of you like, ‘Oh look at that guy.’ But I got used to it.”

Hrezi had to take two weeks off from training after Ramadan ended, in order to recover from running on concrete for a month straight. He even gained weight this year, something he has never done in the past.

“My faith is pretty important to me, and I think that my faith and running go hand in hand,” Hrezi said. “It gives me the strength to go forward and improve. Running on a full stomach during Ramadan was weird, but I knew that I needed to do it to get better as a runner, and as a person.”

Hrezi’s final season proved to be better than the last. This past season, he was one of the top runners on the team, finishing seventh overall at the Big 12 Championships, and fourth overall at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet. That fourth-place finish earned him his first ever trip to the national meet.

“Qualifying for nationals was truly amazing for me,” Hrezi said. “It was always a goal of mine, so when I crossed the finish line at regionals, it was one of the best feelings I had ever felt. I was ecstatic.”

Hrezi finished 24th at the national meet, earning All-American honors for the first time in his career. His finish was also the highest finish at the national meet by a Cyclone in 13 years.

“I just couldn’t be more proud and happy for him,” Bluske said. “I’ve seen all the work that he put in in the last years. The sacrifices he’s made to get to that level have been really tough, but they have obviously paid off. He has such a great work ethic, and the pieces just came together.”

While this past cross-country season was Hrezi’s last, he doesn’t see running leaving his life anytime soon. In fact, he is one day hoping to even get into coaching.

“I don’t ever see running leaving my life,” Hrezi said. “I really think that I want to go into coaching. I was talking to my dad, and I said, ‘I just love running so much. I don’t see my self doing everything else.’ So in 10 years, whether I’m running or coaching, the sport will still be a big part of my life.”