Custer County cross country's Micah Zeller finds motivation to never stop running

(Dan Mohrmann/

COLORADO SPRINGS — When Custer County's Micah Zeller crossed the finish line at the Norris Penrose Event Center, he looked like one of the healthiest runners in the entire Class 2A boys cross country field.

He's come a long way.

Born in Ethiopia, it's a wonder he survived his journey to the United States let alone became one of the top runners in the entire state of Colorado.

"I was very unhealthy when I was young," Zeller said. "I think my parents said when I was two years old I weighed around 14 pounds. I was not in great condition when I came over."

Once he got to the states, he said was lucky to have a family that fed him and loved him. And eventually encouraged him to run toward his dreams.

As Zeller began his athletic career as a kid, he felt his running abilities were more suited from sprinting, not necessarily for distance. That all changed he was talked into joining a cross country team.

"I was in eighth grade," he said. "I was thinking I was more of a sprinter but one of my really good friends at that time said he was going to coach cross country and he wanted me on the team."

Now he's in his senior season and has two main goals that he's still running toward. He wants to keep improving so that he can win a state title and he wants to carry that momentum into a chance to run at the collegiate level.

"I expect to climb and succeed," he said. "This is my last high school season and I'm hoping to win this year. That would mean a lot to me. I've been running on this course for four years and I think ending my high school career with a W would be awesome."

He hasn't made up his mind on a college yet, but he's had conversations with West Texas A&M and other schools in the Lone Star State.

He still has hope that he can make his way to his dream school, even if he knows it's a tall task.

"This would be way out of the blue," he said. "I'm hoping I could run for the University of Oregon."

Surviving a trip across an ocean and a malnourished childhood just goes to show that he shouldn't count Oregon out. His times this year indicate that he's more than able to compete at the next level.

And judging from the way he's grown into a standout athlete, it's obvious that he's capable of whatever he wants to do.

(Dan Mohrmann/