Takamura helping all athletes excel

Takamura has a shot at making the team that will go to the Big Ten Championships.

Zach Eisendrath

In many ways, Minnesota men’s cross country runner Seijen Takamura’s impact off the course is just as important as his contributions on it.

The redshirt sophomore is an executive member of the Student Athlete Advisory

Committee and is instrumental in connecting athletes with the University’s administration.

Each team at the University has two representatives on this committee, which works closely with Associate Athletics Director Leo Lewis and Athletics Director Joel Maturi. But Takamura is one of only five executive members who oversee the group.

Takamura, who applied and was appointed to the position after being encouraged by teammate Ben Hanson last fall, said he took the job because he feels comfortable in leadership roles and wanted to make a direct impact on helping student-athletes become more well-rounded individuals.

The North Mankato native is no stranger to being in a leadership position. At Mankato West High School, Takamura was student council president and a National Honor Society member.

The habit of athletes to hang out solely with their teammates and shy away from the rest of the college community is one glaring problem Takamura said the Student Athlete Advisory Committee is working to address. He described many athletes as “isolated.”

“We kind of want to break down some of those barriers and make everyone more accessible to each other,” Takamura said.

A commitment to volunteering in the community and increased graduation rates among athletes are other goals Takamura said the organization has.

But his leadership extends beyond his position on the committee. Takamura is a leader on his team as well.

Coach Steve Plasencia, who said he faced recruiting competition for Takamura’s services primarily from Ivy League schools because of his high academic standards, said one of Takamura’s greatest qualities is his leadership.

“For a third-year guy, he’s in many respects mature like a fifth-year senior,” Plasencia said. “One of his great assets is that level of maturity.”

On a team composed predominately of underclassmen, senior captain Antonio Vega said Takamura relates well to the youngsters, who might be intimidated when coming into the program.

“He really gets them involved as being part of the team,” Vega said. “Seijen really steps up and goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels comfortable.”

With his profound impact off the course, it would be easy for most to overlook Takamura’s natural running ability.

Takamura, who was a seven-time all-state selection in cross country and track, is a talented part of the Gophers team.

After competing in only three meets a season ago, Takamura is now a strong contributor on a team that is ranked 12th in the country by the latest coaches poll.

Vega – Minnesota’s No.1 runner – said Takamura has improved every year since joining the team.

“He’s really determined and dedicated to improving himself,” Vega said. “You can just see that as he’s progressed through his freshman year until now, he’s definitely stepped it up quite a bit.”

Last year, Takamura missed making the team that competed at the Big Ten Championships by one spot.

But Plasencia said Takamura is definitely in the hunt for one of the last spots on the Gophers’ nine-person traveling team this season.

Plasencia said this weekend’s event, the Jim Drews Invitational, will be crucial in determining if Takamura can make the Big Ten squad.

Last season, Takamura posted a season-best eight-kilometer time of 25:44.9 at the competition.

By his actions and his words, Takamura continues to prove why he is not only a leader of his team but of all athletes at the University.

Takamura said he was more concerned with helping his team become a top-10 team in the country than with his personal agenda.

“I guess more importantly than me being on the roster for the team is doing what I can to help the rest of the team push ourselves into that new level,” Takamura said.

With an attitude of that nature, it is easy to understand why he plays such a vocal role in the athletics community and on his team.

“He’s real positive and kind of a natural born leader,” Vega said. “He really helps motivate everyone around him and kind of keeps the team in a good mood. He’s a good guy to have on the team.”