- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Winning the AAU Cross Country Championship in the 13-14 year-old division in Tallahassee, Fla., on Dec. 3 didn’t surprise Fiker Rosen nearly as much as the reception he received when he came home.

Rosen, 14, finished the 4K race in 12:43.90, nine seconds ahead of Adrian Bichara of Miami. Only four of the 137 runners who participated cracked the 13-minute barrier.

When he returned to Quincy on Sunday night, Fiker, his father, Steve, and his coach Eric Davis, were greeted at the Home Depot by a handful of friends. They were then escorted to St. Peter School, where Fiker is in the seventh grade. About 100 people were there to congratulate him.

“I was surprised,” Fiker said. “They didn’t tell me anything.”

Steve Rosen and his wife, Amy, adopted Fiker and his brother, Biruk, from an orphanage outside of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa in July 2013. Steve said Fiker’s participation in cross country and soccer have helped him grow since he came to Quincy.

“Two years ago, this would have freaked him out,” Steve said on Sunday as Fiker was mobbed by his classmates. “He wouldn’t have gotten out of the car. He wouldn’t have talked to anybody. Sports have allowed him to meet people and made him feel comfortable. He’s happy and flourishing.”

Fiker’s first taste of sports came when he started playing soccer in the Quinsippi Soccer League in the fall 2013. When Fiker first went on the field, he ran everywhere, chasing the ball instead of playing his position.

“He’d run the full length of the field, but he would still beat everybody to the ball,” Steve said. “He was so fast that he kept scoring and scoring and scoring.

“Soccer is where the running thing came from. He was just so much faster than everyone else.”

Fiker won the first 5K race he ever participated in at age 12. Steve said Fiker would have won the second race he ran, but he didn’t know where the finish line was and was wearing headphones, unaware when the eventual winner passed him.

He decided the night before the Bridge the Gap race last May that he wanted to try his hand at a 10K run. He won that race, too.

“I missed him when he crossed the finish line because I didn’t think he would be done yet,” Steve said.

Fiker then joined the cross country program offered by the Quincy Catholic Educational Schools, and he won every race he participated in. He won the IESA championship by completing the 2-mile course at Maxwell Park in Normal in 10 minutes, 4.4 seconds, finishing 22 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

Davis said that Fiker is “kind of man running with the boys.”

Fiker doesn’t run for times. He runs for competition,” he said. “I’ve really only known him since August, but I’ve really seen him grow. Running can teach you how to deal with stress and deal with the hard times, and now Fiker has to learn to deal with all of the attention.

“All of this success is kind of opening his eyes to his own potential.”

After Fiker won the state title, his father asked him what he wanted to do.

“He said, ‘Is there another race?’” Steve said. “I looked for national championships for his age, and (the AAU meet) is what came up. I signed him up, and we went down there with no expectations.

“He earned the right to do it. I told him, ‘Whatever you put into it is how much I’ll put into it.’”

Fiker said he hoped to finish in the top five, but he had no idea what to expect in Florida.

“It was challenging, especially at the beginning,” he said. “Everybody was sprinting, and I didn’t know how fast they were. I just tried to go with the pace.”

The Rosens decided in 2011 to start the adoption process. At first, they wanted much younger children, but they noticed Fiker and Biruk on the list of possible children to adopt. They had been in the orphanage for two years after their parents died of illness.

But then they dropped off the list.

“We thought they had been adopted,” Steve said. “Then six months later, they popped up again, and we said, ‘I think someone’s trying to tell us something.’ So we decided to do it.”

Steve is proud of Fiker’s running accomplishments and how he has handled the success.

“He ran with this kid at the state meet the whole way, then sprinted past him at the end,” Steve said. “When he crossed the finish line, he took one step, did an about face and waited for the other kid so he could shake his hand. He did that without anyone telling him. He’s very humble.”

For now, Fiker will continue to do what he loves — play soccer and run.

“It’s natural,” he said. “God gave me this gift, and I’m going to build on that.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/2gbqPST

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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