MOORHEAD — George Nyanforh has been on his own since he was 17 years old.
He supports himself financially with some assistance from community programs — balancing school, sports and work.
He doesn’t miss a practice, even if he has car troubles on the vehicle he pays for and is responsible to fix. Nyanforh will get a ride.
Nyanforh, who recently graduated from Moorhead High School, learned how to function on his own a long time ago. That determined spirit was on display on the gridiron last fall for the Spuds, and most recently at the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 track and field meet.
Nyanforh conquered his competition in the triple jump Wednesday, June 9, and got out of the blocks fast to start the opening leg for the 400-meter relay that won a section title on Saturday. He won the triple jump with a leap of 44 feet, 1 inch — more than a foot over second-place William Heydt of Alexandria. Nyanforh also won the jumping event in 2019 (44-05).
Nyanforh placed ninth in the triple jump at the state meet as a sophomore, and will be looking to build on that finish at the Class 2A state track and field meet Saturday at St. Michael-Albertville.
Nyanforh overcame a shaky start this season to defend his section title in the triple jump. There was rust with so much time away due to the pandemic, so it took him awhile to get his triple-jumping legs back. But like he does with any setback, Nyanforh bounced back.
“Not having track last year was kinda bad for me, because I usually do it every year,” said Nyanforh, who has competed in varsity track since he was a seventh-grader. “It was the first year I didn’t, so I didn’t know what to do. I did a little bit of training but then COVID hit, so I was in my apartment the whole time just by myself.”
Nyanforh has his own apartment, which he was able to get through a “program that helps kids who got kicked out,” he said.
Nyanforh grew up in Philadelphia before moving to Grand Forks, where he attended middle school and one year of high school. He moved to Moorhead after his freshman year at Red River. Besides his older sister, whom he lived with until he was 17, Nyanforh’s family still lives in Philadelphia.
Nyanforh has lived on his own for a year and a half. He bought a cat, named Yoshi, last October to keep him company.
“At first it was tough, but I’m pretty much used to being by myself," he said. "I used to live with my older sister and we didn’t really communicate that much. She worked nights."
Nyanforh came home one day and saw the apartment empty except for his things. His sister had moved out, a month or so before his 18th birthday, without giving him a heads up, he said. The apartment was expensive, and he had no way to make rent at the time. Nyanforh had to find somewhere to go.
He got the school involved and found a program that could help him get an affordable apartment. It took a while to find a place, he said. He couldn't do the paperwork for an apartment until he turned 18.
“I didn’t have much in there, just my bed and everything I had in my room," Nyanforh said on moving. "So I was on my phone a lot, but then the data ran out, so it was boring.”
Nyanforh does snow removal in the winter and mows lawns in the summer. He's also worked at Valley Bus.
It was a tough adjustment at first as Nyanforh was catapulted into adulthood, responsible for every living expense. He fell behind on bills he had forgotten to pay.
“He’s had to grow up a lot faster than others, I would say,” said Moorhead head boys track coach Spencer Stowers. “But George is still a kid, and that’s what I love about him. He has a great personality. He's got a lot on his plate, but he's been able to manage school, manage athletics, manage his work life and become an adult quickly.”
Nyanforh’s mom said he could come back to Philadelphia, but he wanted to stay in the region to finish school and remain on the football and track teams he’d grown close to. Moving back to Grand Forks was also an option he weighed heavily. With the help of his coaches and the staff at Moorhead High School, he found resources that allowed him to stay.
“It’s not common for people here, but in Philly, it is common,” Nyanforh said of living on his own. “I know people who have lived by themselves since they were 15-16 because their parents kicked them out. Some of them didn’t end up finishing school, and that’s something I really wanted to do — finish high school — and go off to college. That’s something that’s been in my plans since I can remember.”
Nyanforh put himself in a position to achieve his dreams. He’s going to Valley City State to further his education and play football.
“It’s really cool having somebody like that who has been through a lot," said Michael Haugo, Nyanforh’s teammate on the 400 relay. "He still shows up to practice every day and works hard, and is doing well in every one of his events."
Nyanforh has qualified for state every year since seventh grade. He was the anchor on Red River’s 400 relay team at the North Dakota Class A meet as a seventh-grader in 2016.
Haugo, a sophomore, was geared up to have a successful freshman season before the pandemic canceled spring sports. He put on a lot of muscle and gained a lot of speed the summer after his eighth-grade season.
Haugo was on Moorhead’s state-qualifying 800 relay team as an eighth-grader. He missed the finals cut in the 200 at the section meet in 2019, but has made every opportunity count this season.
Haugo crossed the finish line in 21.82 seconds to win the 200 and set a Section 8 record last Saturday. The mark, which was a personal best, broke a 17-year-old record set by Moorhead’s Corey Johnson in 2004. His sprint was .26 seconds faster than Johnson’s previous record time of 22.08 seconds.
“I didn’t really expect to break any records,” Haugo said. “I didn’t really know what they were. I was more just glad that I won my heat.”
Haugo was also the runner-up in the boys long jump with a leap of 20-11, and recorded a second-place finish with Nyanforh in the 800 relay.
Distance ace makes breakthrough
Moorhead won this year’s section championship by 51.5 points. The Spuds had seven first-place finishes and qualified for the state tournament in 11 events.
Senior distance runner Evan Myran accounted for two of Moorhead’s multiple first-place finishes. Stowers said Myran, who made his first state appearance Thursday, “shot out of a cannon” at an accelerated pace this year because of the work he’s put in.
Myran didn’t qualify for state his freshman or sophomore seasons. He earned a trip on his third and final try, and did so in dominant fashion. Myran clocked the fastest times in the 1,600 (4:28.08) and 3,200 (9:37.78) to leave a two-event champion.
“It was always the goal, but to get it done was a dream come true, and we’re gonna have fun at the state meet,” Myran said.
On Thursday evening, Myran clocked a personal record of 9:29.98 in the 3,200 at the 2A state meet to claim fifth place. He will be back Saturday morning for the 1,600.