Road Runners Club of America Announces 2020 Roads Scholar Grantees

October 20, 2020

Four up-and-coming U.S. distance runners receive $5,000 each in financial support; the RRCA has awarded over $730,500 in grants since 1996 in support of elite runners in the U.S.

Arlington, VA – The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) announces and proudly introduces and congratulates its 25th  Roads Scholar® class: Karis Jochen, Dhruvil Patel, Abbabiya Simbassa, and Futsum Zienasellassie.

Since 1996, the RRCA has awarded over $730,500 in grants in support of elite runners in the U.S. In total, including those selected in 2020, 140 athletes (72 women and 68 men) have received a Roads Scholar grant. The goal of the program is to assist American post-collegiate runners who show great promise to develop into national and world class road running athletes. The grants awarded by the RRCA go directly to the athletes to help support their goals and training needs.

This year with the financial challenges created in the running industry due to COVID-19 pandemic, the RRCA is particularly grateful to its Roads Scholar Fund donors and major contributor, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.

Karis Jochen (Boulder, CO): Karis began her running career in College Station, Texas as a way to stay fit for her first love, soccer. After a surprise 5th place finish at the Texas Cross-Country State Meet as a sophomore, Karis decided to see what focusing on running could bring her. She graduated high school as a two-time Texas Cross Country State Champion, two-time Texas Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, and 5th place finisher at both Footlocker Cross Country Nationals and NXN Nationals as a senior.

Continuing her running career in her hometown as a Texas A&M Aggie, Karis found her love for the 10k on the track and earned All-American status in cross country. After graduating college in 2018, Karis attended RRCA’s RunPro Camp and continued to pursue the longer distances on the roads.  Most recently she finished 3rd place at the 2020 USATF 20K Championships and finished the 2020 Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 1:12:55 to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. When races resume, Karis looks forward to making further progress in the longer distances and making her debut marathon.

Dhruvil Patel (Hopkins, MN) Dhruvil began running as a freshman in high school, achieving enough success to run for DIII North Central College in Illinois. While there, Dhruvil put together an exceptional collegiate career, becoming an 11-time DIII All-American between Cross Country, Indoor, and Outdoor Track, and a 4-time DIII National Champion in Cross Country (2018), indoor 5,000m (2018, 2019) and outdoor 10,000m (2019).

After graduation, Dhruvil attended RRCA’s RunPro Camp and joined Team USA Minnesota, where his professional running career has flourished. Top performances to date include 10th place at the 2020 USATFK 15K Road Championship (45:10), 19th place at the  2019 USATF 10 Mile Road Championships (48:36), 12th place, and 2nd American at the 2019 Bix 7 Road Race (34:44), and 1st place with a course record at the Run Mag Mile 10K (29:57).

Abbabiya Simbassa (Flagstaff, AZ): Abbabiya (Biya) began running his junior year of high school in Iowa, placing 7th that year at the Cross Country State Championships and breaking the school record for the 1600m.

Biya earned a scholarship to compete at Iowa Central Community College for two years. There, he was the part of the NJCAA National champion in Cross Country and Track.  For his last two years of eligibility, he transferred to University of Oklahoma, where he put together an impressive resume that included runner-upat the Big 12 Championships and Big 12 Cross Country Men’s Newcomer of the Year.

After graduating from University of Oklahoma in 2015, Biya joined Team USA Minnesota to continue his running career.  He attended RRCA’s RunPro Camp in 2016.  Training under coach Dennis Barker, Biya qualified for the 2016 U.S Olympic Trails – Track in the 5000m.  Later that year, he moved to Colorado Springs to train with American Distance Project, finding continued success with coach Scott Simmons. Stand out performances included a 27:45.78 10,000m (2017), 4th place at 2017 US Outdoor Track 10,000m, 5th place at the 2017 US 5k road championships, and 5th place at the 2017 US Cross Country Championships, 8th place. In 2018, he was 2nd American at the 2018 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in 47:04. In 2019, he was 2nd at the Medtronic TC 10 Mile, the USATF 10 Mile Championship in 46:57.

Futsum Zienasellassie (Flagstaff, AZ): While attending North Central High School, Futsum qualified for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship three times, winning the 2011 Nike Cross Country individual national title. While there, he also won seven separate high school state titles in Cross Country and Track.

Zeinasellassie began attending Northern Arizona University in the fall of 2012. During his freshman Cross Country season, he finished 31st at the NCAA Cross Country Championships with a time of 29:54.10. In 2013, Zeinasellasie returned to the NCAA Cross Country Championships to finish 4th as a sophomore in 30:05.7; followed by a 3rd place as a junior in 30:25.3; and rounding out his Cross Country eligibility with 4th place as a senior in 29:49.8.  He attended RRCA’s RunPro Camp in 2017.

As a professional, Futsum finished 6th at the 2019 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run with a time of 46:57. In the fall of that year, he won the Cow Harbor, Medtronic TC 10 Mile USATF Championship in 46:55, and the Monterey Bay Half Marathon with a time of 62:33.

About the RRCA: The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations and runners dedicated to growing the sport since 1958. The RRCA champions the development of community-based running clubs and events that serve runners of all ages and abilities in pursuit of health and competition. The RRCA’s vision is to see organized running clubs and events established inevery community in the U.S. To learn more, visit: www.RRCA.org

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