Saitama, Japan, a city just north of Tokyo, is where senior communication major and cross country runner Yusuke Uchikoshi grew up. After facing difficulties like learning to speak English and studying to get into schools in the United States, Uchikoshi has become one of the top men’s cross country runners at Boise State.
Uchikoshi started his 2018 season off with a win; he was the first of the men to cross the finish line at the Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 8. In 2017 Uchikoshi was the 2017 Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Champion in the 3,000m steeplechase.
“(Uchikoshi has) grown as a person,” said cross country head coach Corey Ihmels. “He’s had to battle athletically and academically. (Uchikoshi) had to work hard at both, and I think that made him a better and stronger person. I think anytime you come over from a different country, learn the language, go to school and be an athlete, it’s no short task.”
Uchikoshi’s journey to become a college athlete is anything other than ordinary. His goal was to run in America; he sent out 10 DVDs of his highlights to 10 different college coaches in the United States. While Uchikoshi was sending out his tapes, Ihmels was working at Iowa State University trying to get Uchikoshi on his team.
“Originally we recruited (Uchikoshi) when I was at Iowa State. We recruited him pretty hard; he decided to go somewhere else, but ended up not getting into school and had to go back to school in Japan,” Ihmels said. “Once I got the job (at Boise State), we started recruiting him and we got him to come to Boise. We recruited him to get to one school and ended up getting him to come to another, it was obviously worth the hassle and the recruitment for him.”
Uchikoshi started running long before he had aspirations of running at a college level. His mother and father were two of his athletic inspirations.
“I started running when I was 13 years old,” Uchikoshi said. “My dad was a marathon runner, he participated in the 1993 cross country world championship in Stuttgart, Germany, and he took fifth. He was a good runner, and my mom was high jumper.”
Uchikoshi and his friend, teammate and roomate Keegan McCormick have recently started making YouTube videos together.
“It’s been fun,” redshirt senior criminal justice major McCormick said. “We just started a YouTube channel, so we’ve been filming quite a bit. We’ve been going on adventures, different hikes; we’ve even been able to travel a little bit. It’s been good, we get a lot of that one-on-one time, and really get to enjoy each other and our friendship.”
McCormick calls Uchikoshi his closest friend on the team. He says that Uchikoshi is probably the runner that has grown the most over the past years, saying that when Uchikoshi first came to the United States it was hard for him to find things he liked–now he eats cheeseburgers like everyone else.
“(Our friendship) started out watching a bunch of movies, listening movies, kind of delving into the American society and culture. And now we place soccer, play different sports, obviously run together, play video games and hangout. We’re brothers now,” McCormick said.
There are not many NCAA athletes from Japan, and Uchikoshi is the only one on the Boise cross country team. This leads Uchikoshi constantly asking questions to learn all that he can while he is here.
“It’s been amazing; it’s been different,” McCormick said. “Everyday is like a life lesson because he has so many questions to ask. He wants to know so many different things and the cultural difference; it’s been cool. (Uchikoshi) is just so interested in our lives and wants to learn.”
As an older member on the cross country team, Uchikoshi is looked at as a leader, but not in the traditional sense. His teammates and coaches look at him as a silent leader; he leads when he runs. McCormick said Uchikoshi is always there to support his teammates.
“He’s a good leader. He’s more of a silent leader than he is vocal,” Ihmels said. “He is an integral part of the group, and I think if he continues to have success, I think our team will continue to have success. He is a big part of what we want to get accomplished.”
After graduation, Uchikoshi has goals to keep running and run in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He joked that other than that, he has no idea of what he wants to do. But for now, Uchikoshi will continue being one of Boise’s top runners and have fun while doing so.
“He’s a goofball. He’s hilarious,” McCormick said. “He’s always on social media finding funny videos trying to reenact them. He sings songs. The “Frozen” song, “Let it Go.” He’s the best “Let it Go” karaoke singer.”