Nick Knight saw his older brother, Haftu, churn out a decorated running career at Robert E. Lee High School.
The younger Knight also participated in cross country, but he said he viewed it as just an activity during the early stages.
But then something clicked.
“I think the switch turned on for him after cross country season last year when Haftu signed with Texas,” Lee cross country coach Dennis Baker said. “He realized there was interest there. Nick can be just as talented as Haftu. Haftu is a little more aggressive with the way he runs, where Nick is a little more laid back. But Nick will achieve greatness too, and he still has another full year.”
“When I saw my brother get a big scholarship, I decided I wanted to put myself out there and really dedicate myself to running,” Knight said. “Before, if we didn’t have practice, I didn’t practice. If coach said to run three miles, I did three miles. Now, I want to go the extra mile. If there’s no practice or even if it’s raining and 40 degrees, I still come out here and run.”
That extra effort has paid off as Knight, who came to the United States from Ethiopia when he was 10 years old, has qualified for the UIL Cross Country State Championships on Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
Knight finished 20th at the Class 6A Region II meet with a time of 15 minutes, 38.86 seconds.
“It’s really exciting,” Knight said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it. When I looked at the sheet after the finish, I didn’t think I made it. But they said I barely made it. I cut it way too close.
“It’s really nice because people know me more as Nick now, not just Haftu’s brother.”
Now, the junior will look to compete at the state meet for the first time.
“I’m going to shoot for top 50,” Knight said. “There’s some really good competition.”
“He has to get out quick, because the way the state meet is set up, it’s 800 meters downhill to start,” Baker said. “If you don’t get up in the lead or mid-pack, all of a sudden you’re in 100th place, and then you’re working your way back.”
Knight will compete in the Class 6A race at 3:10 p.m. Saturday in Round Rock.