Southern’s Kromah takes unlikely path to Olympics

Published 11:00 am Friday, July 15, 2016

HATTIESBURG — The Southern Miss track pipeline to the Olympics continued to grow as Mariam Kromah was named to the Liberian team, joining Tori Bowie (USA).
Kromah’s route was far from conventional.

“You know when you start high school you want do something to keep you busy? That’s how it all started,” she said. “One of my friends tried introducing me and said I should try track. I said okay and just did it.”

Kromah, who was born and raised in Liberia, attended Western Hills and Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas. She then settled at New Mexico Junior College, where she was an outdoor and indoor NJCAA All-American.

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The May 2016 graduate currently holds the Golden Eagle outdoor 400-meter record of just 52.11 seconds. Indoors, Kromah has the school and C-USA 400-meter record as well (53.55). She was an Honorable Mention All-American in her senior season, reaching the NCAA semifinals for the 400-meter in Eugene, Oregon, with a 54.17 time.

Her two years in Division I competition were well-documented, but there was always something beyond the day she would receive her diploma.

“My biggest motivation is my coach,” Kromah said. “When I told him I wanted to run for Liberia and represent my country, he said okay, but that it wasn’t gonna be easy. He gave me a time and when I would run that time, he would contact their people. That’s when I decided I could do it.”

Despite a decorated career, Kromah says her best Golden Eagle memory is simply “making the team.” She says she can better identify her best track memory when it happens and hits her, but head coach Jon Stuart has one that truly stands out in his mind.

“This past year, Mariam defeated the defending C-USA champion in the indoor 400-meter in dramatic fashion,” he said. “Mariam improved by leaps and bounds coming into the season. She established herself as the woman to beat for the rest of the season.”

Her Southern Miss career even began with Stuart, just recently hired, telling her to keep off her feet the entire summer of 2014 while she rested a nagging groin injury. The instruction paid off.
Kromah will head to Houston in two weekends for one final meet before ultimately flying to Rio de Janeiro.