Nat Romaine rounding the turn to the finish at the NCHSAA 3A State Championships. Parents Craig and Susan cheering him to the finish! Photo taken by Rania Combs
For the past
four years, athletes and spectators experience a familiar sight when the Chapel
Hill Tigers compete in cross country meets. A breathless black and gold clad runner
in long white Balega socks and Nike spikes crosses the finish line near the
front and promptly doubles back to the course. He covers the last couple
hundred meters encouraging his teammates toward the finish line.
Coach Joan Nesbit-Mabe shares, "He runs back along the course cheering until every single runner finishes. We have 38 runners on our men's team, so that's a lot of cheering!" Nesbit-Mabe has mentored Nat Romaine for a many years. She says, "I have known Nat since he was a Chapel Hill/Carrboro Pacer when he first moved to the United States after being adopted from Ethiopia."
Romaine got his start in running following an injury. He says, "the only reason that I started running was because I broke my arm playing football so my mom made me do a different sport for one year. Then she said she would allow me to play football again if I wanted to, but I just loved running."
Romaine confesses, "I'm a hardworking teammate. I'm the teammate that everyone loves to run with because I bring the best out of everyone while still having fun. I care about how my team performs instead of how I perform individually because at the end of the day you need 7 guys in order to win, not 1." During his junior campaign, his positive attitude helped the Tigers grab gold in the 2016 NCHSAA State Championship. Romaine finished 16th in 16:34, a 72 second PR over his sophomore performance at States.
Romaine and teammates after winning the NCHSAA 3A State Championships last fall
In his favorite event, Romaine boasts a 5k track PR from last season of 16:36.79. On the grass and trails of cross country, he clocked his fastest time of 16:18.79 at the Jungle Run at South View High School last fall. He says it's his favorite meet because "I love the atmosphere that it brings and it's a night race which causes a different beast in me to come out." His coach thinks he's built for the longer races. She describes, "Nat is a distance man through-and-through. His stride is incredibly efficient with very little wasted motion; not a high knee drive or back kick, just motoring with metronomic precision."
Nesbit-Mabe raves about her team leader. For example, at the teams' summer camp at App State she recalls, "we participated in a group bonding session where the facilitator gave a series of instructions like, 'step into the circle if you are looking forward to school starting,' or 'step into the circle if running is not your favorite sport.' He continued with 'step into the circle if you have ever felt alone on this team'... and no one stepped in to the circle. Then, when he said, 'step into the circle if you have every felt alone in any group' everyone stepped in to the center except Nat. Nat has felt welcomed in every group he's ever been in which, in turn, is what makes him such a welcoming person."
Romaine's welcoming nature carries over to the classroom. He's Chapel Hill's student body president this year. As a senior he'll continue to enjoy history classes and hopes to make his mark post high school at LSU, his father's alma mater. He confesses, "I've been an LSU fan ever since I was little and I wear an LSU sweatshirt" to all my competitions. In addition to the purple and gold sweatshirt he's "worn the same pair of socks for every single high school race and major workouts."
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