Pete Nelson graduated in 2008, running track all four years and cross country in 2005. Nelson returned for a second degree in environmental sustainability and used his final year of eligibility in cross country during the fall 2011 season. Photo by Lindsey Kolb.

A Road Retraveled

Name: Pete Nelson
Year: Senior
Sport: Men’s Cross Country
Hometown/High School: Harrisonburg, VA/Christopher Dock
Specs: Previously graduated in 2008, running track all four years and cross country in 2005. Returned for a second degree and had one year of eligibility left in cross country.

What is your major? What do you hope to do?

My first degree was in Communications, but this second one is in Environmental Sustainability. The next step is hopefully grad school for a Masters in renewable energy. It’s a growing field but it is also important for the future that we be responsible with our resources. I was interested especially in the Environmental Sustainability program at EMU because it incorporates social justice and sustainability.


What originally made you choose to come to EMU?

Probably the Mennonite aspect. I went to a Mennonite high school. Originally I was resistant as my parents wanted to send me here, but I appreciated the community and some of my friends from high school were already here. When I visited as a senior I stayed with one of my best friends who was on the track team, and that visit was a lot of it.

I was also recruited for the track team, which probably influenced my decision at the time, although I didn’t have the success I had hoped for. But after my four years I was happy with my decision, probably for different reasons than I originally came.


What has it been like athletically for you here, especially your unique story of running track, being the interim track coach two different times, and now running cross country?

Pete Nelson, a 2008 graduate of EMU, returned to campus to work towards a second degree in environmental science. Photo by Jon Styer.

From the beginning, even from the first time I met (then coaches) Paul Johnson and Lester Zook, I appreciated the community aspect of the teams and also the flexibility that I didn’t have to dedicate my whole life to athletics. I was able to participate in other activities and didn’t have to choose between track and singing with the chamber singers or the play. That was one of the most important aspects for me as an athlete, so as a coach I tried to continue that because at EMU there are lots of other opportunities besides athletics.

Now I probably try to be more of a leader than when I was in school before. I never was the most talented person on the team, but I try to work just as hard as everybody else. Cross country is hard to compare to track because of distances, etc., but I’m definitely having more success this season than when I ran cross country my sophomore year.


What has it been like being a student-athlete while at EMU?

It’s tough; it’s been a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding at the same time. You have to make some sacrifices, but I have learned to budget my time so I have more of a schedule in my day.


What are one or two things you have learned from playing your sport here that you will take with you when you leave?

Especially with cross country I think I’ve learned that everybody can contribute to a team in their own way. Not everybody is a leader and not everybody is going to run 25:00 in an 8k. But when everybody is working hard to get better it makes the whole team better. Work ethic goes a long way. I’m not the most talented guy on the team but I try to help in whatever way I can.

That’s one of the reasons I like the sports of cross country and track specifically. It’s an individual sport but there’s definitely a team aspect to it. I think that’s something that Coach Lewkowicz has worked hard to create is that team togetherness.