Running with God from Africa to the US

Andre Klaassen is fast. Really fast. Only a sophomore, he already holds the indoor 60- and 200-meter dash records for Cedarville University and ran the second fastest outdoor 100- and 200-meter dash times in a season plagued by injury.

Klaassen was adopted as an infant in Louisville, Kentucky. Soon after, his family moved to North Africa, where his parents served as missionaries for 12 years. As a young boy in Africa, he took up soccer. It was on the pitch, not the track, that he discovered his natural speed. When his family moved back to Louisville, Klaassen’s father encouraged him to try track.

“He said, ‘Hey, you’re really fast, so why don’t you try to run track and see if you like it,’” Klaassen said. “He said I didn’t have to stick with it if I didn’t want to, but I ended up really liking it.”

Breaking records

In high school, Klaassen broke four school records and won three state championships for Louisville’s Whitefield Academy. After hearing about Cedarville from a close childhood friend, Klaassen chose to come to the school to continue his education and athletic career.

Since coming to Cedarville, Klaassen has set impressive records, but it hasn’t been easy. Last year, he missed several meets in the indoor season because of hamstring issues, and he missed the end of the outdoor season with a pulled quadricep. While the injuries have frustrated him, Klaassen said they have helped him see the bigger picture beyond running.

“It’s really eye-opening because you realize how much you depend on the body that God has given you,” he said. “You have to learn how to depend on God for healing.”

Cedarville assistant track coach Jason Scott said he thinks Klaassen has a lot of potential.

“Yes, Klaassen has had a lot of success in the short period of time that he has been here, and he basically lost all of his outdoor season last year due to pulling his quad,” he said. “We have yet to see the best of Klaassen. He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he is capable of, and he will be the first one to tell you that.”

Head track coach Jeff Bolender said, “Motivation and talent are what typically separate athletes. Klaassen has these.”

Scott said Klaassen has natural explosive ability, but he has to work on the technical side of running.

“We have been working on his start and his running mechanics over the last year and have seen glimpses of what he can really do,” Scott said. “It’s a process of getting rid of old, bad habits. Now he just has to put it all together in one good race, and then we will really see what Klaassen can become.”

Klaassen was quick to point out that he can’t take any credit for his athleticism and talent.

“It’s God. There’s not really anything else. It’s not me at all,” he said. “It’s what God has put into my body and what he does through me. I can’t do anything on my own so it’s really just all God.”

Klaassen said he hopes to run 10.4 and 21.2 for the 100 and 200, respectively, before he graduates. Both times would obliterate the school records and likely earn him a trip to the NCAA Division II nationals. He has already run 10.83 and 21.81.

From the track to the drums

Even with all his accomplishments on the track, there is another side to Klaassen where he might be even more well known by the student body.

“In Africa we used to have house church. Instead of going to a local church we would have a bunch of people from our team come over and we would have family-led worship sessions,” he said. “I got into playing drums because a lot of those gatherings were at my house. I didn’t start playing a set until later. I played hand drums for about four years.”

When Klaassen got back to the States, he started playing drums at his school and church. When he came to Cedarville, he read an email about playing for Heartsong and chapel band. He tried out for the latter and made it.

For Klaassen, playing the drums isn’t an escape from running, but another part of who he is.

“It’s not really a getaway,” he said. “I really enjoy music, it’s more like a second part of me.”

Cultural differences

In addition to introducing Klaassen to drums, growing up in Africa gave him a host of unique experiences.

“My culture growing up was a lot different from a lot of people here,” Klaassen said. “For example, someone the other day asked me who Derek Jeter was because they were wondering how much I knew about baseball, and I had no idea who he was. They speak different languages over there so I speak French and Spanish fluently, and I picked up some Arabic on the streets. Being plugged into a French school system for a couple of years and then a Spanish school system for a couple of years changed my academics. The culture over there is very different, too: the way people interact, the fact that they’re Muslim and I’m Christian, there are a lot of differences.”

Despite the differences and being in America for the past several years, Africa is still special to Klaassen.

“I loved it,” he said. “I would consider it my home.”

Growing up overseas also gave Klaassen a desire to go overseas himself after graduation but, as in every area of his life, he said he’s trusting God first.

“I’m a sports business management major so I’d like to do sports ministry in a lower level of soccer or higher level of track, whether that be overseas or in the states,” he said. “I’d like to go overseas, but we’ll see what God does. I’m open to whatever he throws my way.”

Tyler Greenwood is a sophomore mechanical engineering major and a sports reporter for Cedars.

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