Nate Ghena: Tested, but not broken
Senior Nate Ghena didn’t grow up running cross country. He didn’t even run his first race until his freshman year at Central Michigan.
Ghena grew up playing soccer and hoped to find a school that would offer him a college scholarship. Midway through high school, his goal of earning a soccer scholarship became unrealistic.
“My junior year I had a major knee injury and it kind of ruined my chances for college soccer,” he said.
Ghena started running track in seventh grade to get in shape for soccer season. After his injury, he focused more on track and had a breakout year.
From there, he constantly emailed college coaches to give him a shot. The only coach that got back with Ghena was CMU Head Coach Matt Kaczor.
“Nate wasn’t the most talented guy coming out of high school, but I could tell he had heart and he wanted to be great,” Kaczor said.
Since getting his shot, Ghena hasn’t just met expectations, he’s demolished them.
As a sophomore, he earned All-Mid-American Conference honors after finishing fifth at the Spartan Invitational and seventh at the Notre Dame Invitational. As a junior, he placed seventh (25:06.8) at Pre-Nationals. And as a senior this year, he finished first (15:29.46) at the Jeff Drenth Memorial and has been named MAC co-runner of the week twice.
Ghena has finished first among Chippewa runners in his last 11 cross country races, dating back to 2013.
“I wasn’t recruited out of high school, so I had to prove my worth,” Ghena said. “The better I got, the harder I worked to stay there. Now I’m running to prove a point to others that you don’t have to be some stud in high school to get somewhere.”
Now that he is a senior, Ghena said he tries to help out the younger runners as much as he can.
“He’s very hands on with us and how we do things,” said freshman runner Luke Anderson. “He’s very disciplined with how we act outside of practice, but also very comforting and supportive during practice. He doesn’t let anything fly.”
Ghena is studying neuroscience and is applying for graduate school. He said he would love to stay at CMU, but will go wherever he has the best opportunity to succeed.
Before continuing his education, Ghena will have at least two more chances to compete as a Chippewa, with the MAC Championships Saturday in Canton, Ohio and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Nov. 13 in Madison, Wisconsin.
If Ghena does well enough at the regional, he’ll have a chance to make the Nov. 21 NCAA Championships as an individual or with his team.
Ghena, the same guy only one team gave a chance four years ago.