SETTING LOFTY GOALS
His high school coach believed in him first.
It was Sam Gee at Rubidoux High School who first believed that Mobin Ghoury could get a scholarship to run in college.
“I started running in ninth grade and ran all four years,” Ghoury remembers. “My coach was the person that really believed in me and believed I could get a scholarship.”
Ghoury ran the mile, two mile, 800 meter, and even four by 400 meter relay events for Gee at Roubidoux. October 29 in Boise, Idaho at the Western Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships, Ghoury ran 8k into the San Jose State record books when he finished seventh and became the first Spartan man to be named to the All-WAC Cross Country team.
“His work ethic showed up at the WAC,” Spartan head cross country coach Augie Argabright said.
At the beginning of 2005, Ghoury set a goal for himself: get on the All-WAC second team.
“I thought that I could do that if I did the best I could and lived up to my full potential,” he said. “First team all WAC was not something I ever thought I could do.”
Ghoury, who finished in a time of 25:50.53, knew what he wanted to achieve in the race and had a plan.
“I was just going to stay with a good strong pack and just stay with them for as long as I could until I was ready to make my move,” he said.
A FIRST-TEAM ALL-WAC PERFORMANCE
After finishing 32nd in the conference championships in 2004, even second team All-WAC may have seemed like a lofty goal. But Mobin Ghoury likes to set lofty goals. He takes fifteen hours classes during the fall semesters when the season’s going on. He takes even more hours in the spring semesters so he can graduate in five years. He ran at least 80 miles a week over the summer to build his endurance for the upcoming season. He knew before the 2005 championships that no man from San Jose State had ever finished in the top eight. So before this year’s race, Ghoury decided to set another lofty goal.
From the beginning of the race, five runners got in the front and never really relinquished their leads. Following those five were approximately nine more runners and Ghoury found himself in about fifteenth place around the mile and a half mark. At three miles into the race, Ghoury moved up to twelfth place, putting himself in contention for making the All-WAC Second Team. But the race went just like Ghoury had planned. Somewhere between 600 and 800 meters left in the race, he found himself in eighth place, trailing New Mexico State’s Josh Sifuentes by ten meters. Finally, with about 200 meters between himself and the finish line, Ghoury decided to make one last charge and dropped Sifuentes, leaving him ten meters behind him.
“I passed him and I looked behind to see how far in front of him I was and I couldn’t even see because I’d passed him by so much,” Ghoury said. “After that, I was just focusing on staying where I was and finishing.”
After he dropped Sifuentes and hung on for seventh place, Ghoury realized that he had more than surpassed the goals he had set for himself. He did something that no one thought he could do.
“It was crazy,” Ghoury said, the excitement from the weekend’s accomplishment still apparent in his voice. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
MAKING AN IMPACT THAT WILL LAST
Head men’s cross country coach Jeff Argabright said Ghoury’s win was well-deserved and will impact the entire men’s cross country program in the long-term.
“This year, Mobin just put in the time and the dedication to getting better,” Jeff Argabright said. “He’s gotten to the point where he’s as strong down the stretch as leaders are in races. He’s a really good leader and sets a great example for the other guys on our team. By making the All-WAC team, he gave our program here at San Jose State more legitimacy.”
Ghoury beat all of the top runners from every other team at the WAC Championships, with the exceptions of Utah State and Boise State, respectively. He also posted his second best time ever at 8k and did it on a course he’d never seen before that was even at slight elevation in Boise.
MASTERING THE MENTAL SIDE OF RUNNING
In accomplishing a goal that was so important to him, Ghoury said that this year he finally mastered the side of running that he had always struggled to figure out: the mental side.
“It took me two years to figure that out,,” Ghoury said of his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Spartans. “The first two years, I just ran. This year, I ran smart and hard. It took me a while to figure that out. I want to pass that along to the other guys so they don’t spend two years trying to figure it out like I did.”
Ghoury said that in learning how to run smarter and harder, he was able to develop race strategies for himself that have brought him success. Always trying to run with a pack, as he did during the beginning of the WAC Championships, is one of the strategies he developed.
“If you’re with a pack, you’re thinking about staying with those guys, you’re not thinking about anything else,” he explained.
By improving the way that he mentally approached running, Ghoury said that he was also better able to handle tiredness in races.
“When I’m tired, I just want to see how long I can keep going,” Ghoury said. “I personally think that your brain tells you you’re tired, not your body, so if you can just focus on keeping going, you can overcome that thing in your brain that’s telling you that you’re tired.”
But learning to overcome obstacles is also not something that’s new to Mobin Ghoury. Ghoury is a computer engineering major with plans to work in the automobile industry after graduation. His course-load demands that he spend hours working on projects on his computer and in computer labs in the engineering building. Balancing his time is a challenge, but he has managed to overcome it, too.
Ghoury is in his third season for the Spartans, was named the men’s team captain this year, and shows no signs of slowing down. Not too bad for a kid far from his home in Southern California.
“I wanted to come here to San Jose, get away from home, and see if I could be on my own and I’ve loved my time here,” Ghoury said.
His major success on the cross country course this year has only made him hungry for more.
“Now that I know that I can run with the best, I have so much more confidence going into next year,” Ghoury says as he thinks forward to next season, even though this season isn’t even finished yet.
Despite the reputation that running has as an individual-only sport, for some runners, team goals come first. Mobin Ghoury is one of those runners. He has embraced his role as a leader on the men’s team.
A TEAM LEADER
“My goal is a team championship for San Jose State, for these guys,” he says, talking about his teammates. “We work on trying to keep the distance between us as small as possible during races so we know we’re doing okay. Cross country is an individual sport, but it’s also about being a team and helping out your teammates.”
In the end, Ghoury knows that even after he finishes running for San Jose State at the at the completion of the 2007 spring season, the lessons he’s learned from the sport he loves will last beyond the finish lines. He’ll attack his lofty career goals the way he’s attacked his lofty running and academic goals.
“If I can run and do one of the hardest things there is to do, I can do anything,” Ghoury asserts. “Running is such a challenge and I’ve been successful. I’ve done so much to be able to balance everything, I’ll just do the same things later in life. I’ll just remember what I’ve accomplished and then try to build on it by focusing on my goals.”
Ghoury is only a junior. He still has a full year of eligibility left and the ambition and motivation to improve even more during his senior campaign.
“I want to be known for doing something that had never been done at San Jose State,” Ghoury said.
It’s certain that he’s already done one thing. As far as how many more he’ll do, only time will tell.