Iliass Aouani becomes a leader for SU after roster turnover

first_img Published on September 25, 2018 at 11:30 pm Contact Alex: [email protected] | @alexhamer8 Iliass Aouani was never an athlete. In his hometown of Milan, Italy, he was looking for a sport since he hadn’t played one before — so he started to run. What started as something just for fun quickly turned into something much more serious for Aouani.In the years following, Aouani gained Italian citizenship — his parents were originally from Morocco — and placed 14th in the European Under-23 Championships. One year into running, Aouani’s recruitment process to the NCAA began at an unorthodox place.“I just got a random message on Facebook one day,” Aouani said of his first recruiting encounter. “I didn’t even know about NCAA ‘till I came here.”Now a senior at Syracuse, Aouani looks to take on a larger role this season after the graduation of Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie and Philo Germano, SU’s three top runners this spring. Healthy again after suffering a stress fracture in his first year at Syracuse — he transfered from Lamar University — the Italy native is drawing from his journey to SU as he tries to become a leader for the Orange this season.Aouani didn’t have much direction when it came to picking colleges. He received messages from schools via Facebook, and began looking at different colleges in the United States.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLamar University in Texas wasn’t the first team to reach out, but it was the one that stood out.“I knew a friend from Italy that went to Lamar so it was a good link,” Aouani said, “I was like, ‘I got nothing to lose.’ I went for an adventure.”Aouani’s first year at Lamar was successful. He finished runner-up in his collegiate debut at the Rice Invitational. But his adjustment proved difficult. Aouani, like any freshman living away from home for the first time, dealt with a new schedule: a foreign lifestyle, feelings of homesickness. Aouani also dealt with communication issues like people speaking too fast, he said.“I had to ask them to repeat what they said every time,” Aouani said.As Aouani grew more accustomed to living in a new country, his communication improved. But an issue with transferring credits from Italy to Lamar caused Aouani to look at other schools for his sophomore year. Syracuse’s cross country success during Aouani’s freshman year — the Orange had won its first national championship in 64 years — piqued Aouani’s interest in SU. He called Knight and asked how he could get into contact with SU coaches.Knight directed Aouani to the SU website, and he emailed then-SU head coach Chris Fox. A week later, Aouani took his first visit to Syracuse. Two days after that, he signed.Aouani had to adapt to Syracuse’s more strength-based training regimen along with transitioning from the Texas heat to Syracuse’s cold weather climate. After a sophomore season in which he was the first Orange runner to place at the ACC Championships, a stress fracture in the spring forced him to focus on recovery.He missed a majority of his junior season, but came back in time for the postseason. There, he contributed to SU’s ACC and national championships races. Though he struggled with the missed time, it forced him to become stronger as a person, he said.“He’s become more comfortable in his own skin,” head coach Brien Bell said. “He’s become more of a leader.”Now, Aouani talks to younger runners on the team and has tried to guide them.“When it’s time to get serious and put the work in, he can put the work in and you can tell the younger guys feed off of that,” redshirt junior Kevin James said.Aouani remembers the legacy and teachings Knight and other recently graduated runners left behind.But now, he looks to make his own mark.“My goal is to have my best season ever in the NCAA,” Aouani said, “I just want to be the best runner I can be.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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