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Messaoudi left Morocco to better family's lives

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Fouad Messaoudi

Fouad Messaoudi traveled 5,000 miles from Morocco to Stillwater to compete at OSU and help build a better life for him and his family. 

Dave Smith lauded Fouad Messaoudi before the Big 12 Cross Country Championships in October. And for good reason.

After saying Messaoudi was one of the most overlooked runners in the country, Smith, OSU’s cross country coach, had his claims verified. Messaoudi only competed in races less than 3,000 meters, and he’s still just in his freshman cross country season, having joined in January. But he finished sixth at Big 12s.

Smith wasn’t sure what they’d get out of him, but he had an idea based off athleticism and potential.

“I think what a lot of people fall for nationally is they forget to look sometimes at these milers that might be able to run cross country,” Smith said. “And he's definitely one of those guys.”

But Messaoudi never overlooked himself. He knew what he was capable of. And now, 5,000 miles away from his home country of Morocco, he looks to do more both for him and his family.

Messaoudi began running at a young age, while his brother was already in training. That’s when the potential was realized. Other neighborhood kids played soccer, and he did, too, but it didn’t stick like running did.

“I find my passion in running,” Messaoudi said. “I love running.”

At 12, Messaoudi was running at a primary school and winning his region. Then, at 13, he made the Moroccan National Team. The passion only grew from there.

He was training with elite Moroccan athletes such as Soufiane El Bakkali, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He said those Olympic-caliber athletes trained alongside him and pushed him to be on the same level as them.

Then, OSU reached out to Messaoudi. He didn’t even know what the NCAA was, or anything about the style of competition in the U.S. Just the recruiting process was a big reach for him.

“It's hard to be a recruit because I have to apply for a visa first, and then it's not like American people here – they come to see what's going on (at OSU) and then they decided to come in here or not,” Messaoudi said. “It's not like me. When (Smith) explained to me, I put all my trust in him.”

Not only did it take trust from Messaoudi, but also his family. They all looked at it as a great opportunity to benefit his future as a runner.

“They were really proud of me,” Messaoudi said. “That's like a great progress of my life, trying to build my future and trying to find a great opportunity for me to afford (my family) a good life and also to help me and to be responsible.”

Smith sat down and looked up the average income of Messaoudi’s hometown of Oujda, Morocco. The search was eye-opening: $3,000 a year. Coming from such an impoverished area, furthering a career in running and getting and education is a way to support him and his family.

“There’s people here that spend $3,000 a year on coffee,” Smith said. “He looks forward to getting an education and be able to go well beyond his running and support his family and kind of change the outcomes of, you know, the lives of his family.”

With a 2022 Indoor and Outdoor All-Big 12 finish and his first Big 12 cross country season complete, he’s not overlooked anymore. His first year at OSU has been one of adjustment, but also one of success, which he looks to carry on to NCAA cross country regionals and national championships.

“When I come here, I find the team, I find the coaches here, and they support me so much and they push me,” Messaoudi said. “I think this year we're gonna be good and trying to achieve something nice at this university.” 

sports.ed@ocolly.com