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Celebrating Black History

Simon Bairu

Photo of Simon Bairu

In honor of Black History month, the University of Wisconsin athletic department will celebrate the stories of 28 former African-American student-athletes or coaches, one for each day in the month of February.

The UW athletic program launched its "Celebrate UW's Black History" section on UWBadgers.com in 2003. It has been updated every year with new information, a photo gallery and multimedia offerings and is one of the finest college resources for African-American athletics history in the nation.

Today we celebrate former national champion track All-American Simon Bairu.

Bairu is the most successful UW cross country runner ever, winning two individual NCAA championships and leading the Badgers to the 2005 team title.

The Regina, Sasketchewan, native won the 2004 and 2005 NCAA individual championships and was named the U.S. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association athlete of the year. In addition to one NCAA team title, the Badgers also finished second three times during Bairu's seasons.

Wisconsin also won all four Big Ten Conference titles during Bairu's tenure as he claimed conference individual titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005, only the second three-time league champion in UW history. He was also honored as the Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year three times.

Bairu was a seven-time All-American in track and cross country. He also won one Big Ten title in the 10,000 meters and set the UW record in that event.

While he grew up in Canada, Bairu's roots are in northern Africa. His father is from Eritrea and his mother is from Ethiopia. His parents fled the war between the two countries and Simon was born in Saudi Arabia as his family was moving to Greece. The family lived in Greece for three years before moving to Regina when Simon was almost four years old.

Bairu, who is a four-time Canadian cross country champion, continues to compete and is looking to move up the marathon in the future.

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