West Fargo

Nsengiyumva Corode’s resilience was forged at a very young age.

An undersized Corode has endured major challenges his entire life, having been born into the African country of Burundi while it was in the midst of a civil war.

He doesn’t remember much from his early childhood other than spending the bulk of each day hunkered down inside with his family, trying to remain safe from the conflict outside. There was, however, one task Corode remembers that required him to leave the confines of the family home.

With no clean water in the house, Corode recalls making a “really long walk (of) 4-5 miles” to the closest river, where he would fill up two buckets, then lug them back home for the family to use that day.

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“I didn’t have the muscle to carry those heavy buckets of water, but I just believed that I could,” he said. “It was a long walk, but I did what I had to do.”

Hoping to improve their lives, Corode, him mom, dad and three sisters immigrated to America in the mid 2000s. After initially landing in Pierre, S.D., the family moved to West Fargo when Corode reached second grade.

Having to learn a new language and adjust to the customs of a new country, Corode admits he struggled at first. But when asked how he got through it, he echoes a familiar refrain.

“I did what I had to do.”

Having endured all this by the time he got to high school, the challenges of being an undersized jumper for West Fargo High School’s track and field team doesn’t seem so challenging.

Despite being listed at just 5-feet-7-inches tall, Corode, now a senior, has become one of the state’s top competitors in both the long jump and triple jump. He finished third in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the 2018 state meet.

Noticing Corode’s obvious abilities when he joined the team as a freshman, Packer coach Darin McKinnon and his staff honed in on improving his technique.

“We knew there was some talent there, but he was really raw,” McKinnon said. “It’s just taken more time, but he’s really kind of found his place.”

For Corode, part of getting to that place was not allowing himself to be defined by his physical limitations.

“I wish I was a bit taller and longer to compete with the others, but it hasn’t really affected me,” he said. “Growing up. I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere with my height, so I decided to work with what I had. I just had to work harder than a lot of people. And it just shows how hard I’ve worked with the position I’m in now.”

Though hoping to continue his athletic career at the collegiate level, those plans will be put on hold, as Corode intends to enlist in the National Guard after high school. Intrigued by a recruiter he met at a career fair, he plans to do his basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.

But before he gets there, Corode feels he has plenty left to accomplish on the track.

With personal best distances of 22 feet, 11 inches in long jump and 45 feet, 10 inches in triple jump, Corode is within striking distance of Jaime Heinen, who holds the program record (24-3 in long jump, 47-2 in triple jump) in each event.

Corode is unsurprisingly setting his sights even higher.

“A lot of people say that I’ve peaked, but I keep telling them that I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully break the school record, even the state record,” he said. “Show them that no matter what size, anybody can do anything if they put their heart into it.”