German Army training shapes senior runner

Caitlyn Diimig

Six years ago, senior Rico Loy was wearing a uniform of a different color and fit.

Instead of donning a cardinal-and-gold cross-country jersey, Loy stood tall and straight in a rigid German Army uniform.

“The first three months were super hard,” Loy said.

Until recently, it was mandatory for young German men to join the military for one year. In Germany, it is also common for many young men to get a job after middle school, which was exactly what Loy did for four years.

After serving in the Army, Loy wanted a better job and he wanted to return to running. College would be a way for him to run competitively, so he finished his high school requirements in one year.

“I’d always ran since I was 12 years old,” Loy said. “That’s actually why I went back to school, because I thought I would have more time to run.”

Coach Corey Ihmels said he first heard of Loy through a writer for “Track and Field News” and began recruiting him.

Iowa State’s competitive cross-country and engineering programs lured Loy to leave family in Bad Wildbad, Germany, and come to Ames in 2008, where he experienced a new way of racing.

“The mentality in the team especially is different,” Loy said. “I really like that everyone on the team is running for each other.”

In German races, competitors run individually and there are no team scores.

“I think that’s probably something that intrigued him to come here — just being a part of a team and having that experience,” Ihmels said.

As seniors, Loy and his roommate, Charlie Paul, serve as leaders for the men’s team.

“He’s not always the most vocal guy, but he says what he needs to say,” Paul said. “He leads by example and is a good role model for all of us.”

Loy has been described as having a friendly demeanor and is thoughtfully poised, which carries through in his running and leadership abilities.

“Sometimes a leader doesn’t have to be aggressive and really take charge,” Ihmels said.

This year is Loy’s last of eligibility. With a preference for track over cross-country, Loy looks forward to running the 5,000-meter in the spring.

After graduating from Iowa State in mechanical engineering as planned, Loy may return home to his family. He intends to find a job and run competitively.

“I could see myself trying to go pro for a year,” Loy said. “It’s not as hard to get to the German Championship as it here.”