Athlete of the week: Fanaka Ndege, Elk River, track: Showmaship

by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor
Fanaka Ndege is better known as an entertainer than athlete at ERHS but his performances for the track team have gotten enthusiastic reviews, too.


“Fanaka is jack of all trades,” declared his coach, Brian Gilbertson. When asked if he meant, rapping, dancing and composing, Gilbertson laughed, “Yes, those too, but he can run any race from the 200 through 3,200, he’s done the jumps, and he could do pole vault if we tried him there. In college, if he wanted to try the decathlon, I think he’d do pretty good.”


Fanaka Ndege has competed in 10 events in his career but his best is triple jump. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Fanaka Ndege has competed in 10 events in his career but his best is triple jump. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The 5-7, 140-pound athlete, also a taekwondo black belt, has done the 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, 4×100, 4×200, 4×400, long jump and triple jump at one time or other.


“At the beginning, I was like, oh, man, that’s a big load! But over time, we figured things out,” said Ndege, who’s done  mainly long and triple jump and the two longer relays the last two years.


His 43-5 triple jump (second at true-team sectional) is No. 4 all-time for the Elks and he’s part of the school record 4×800 team (7:59.80). He went to state with the 4×800 last year and just missed in the triple. At conference this year, he took second and third in relays and sixth in the triple. At sectional  Wednesday he got third and missed state by a half-inch.


“Fanaka always does whatever he is asked,” Gilbertson said. “He is very polite. The kids respect him. He will be missed.”


Of Ndege’s many passions, the first to materialize was martial arts, at age 6 in Minneapolis. He still trains at World Martial Arts Center downtown, and after 12 years, has a third-degree black belt. “Taekwondo is great for self-discipline, learning self defense and interaction with peers,” he said.


Dancing was an offshoot of marital arts. During breaks at the gym he would “start playing in front of that big mirror” and work on dance steps. He is a dynamic dancer with his own unique blend of martial arts and acrobatics, influenced by hip hop and African culture. His routines are spiced by a crowd-pleasing back flip, showcasing his athletic ability.


In ninth grade, he teamed with Dupre Robinson and Josh Walbot to form “Sher-Bounce Crew,” and in 2011, they were State Fair talent contest Open (all ages) champions after qualifying at the country fair. Last summer, Ndege went solo as a rapper and dancer and won the same county and State Fair titles.


The State Fair exposure led to a job with Total Entertainment, where he performs and teaches dance to kids in schools and other venues.


In order to “introduce myself as an artist,” Ndege has a mixed tape of 10 original tunes called “Fanaka Nation” on You Tube. He will pursue an entertainment career, hoping to sign with a record label, but will still go to college and get a regular job. His “day job” goal is physical therapy.


Fanaka Ndege
Fanaka Ndege

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents JoJo and Homie, younger sisters Kemunto and Kwamboka … Sports: track, martial arts, formerly cross-country … Other activities: Link, DECA, speech, Multi-Cultural Club … Academics: B average … College plans: Anoka-Ramsey
Favorite stuff — Class: English Literature  … TV show: ‘90s fare, especially “Fresh Prince” … Movie: “Rush Hour” … Food: a “cheese pizza with sushi topping” he concocted … Drink: raspberry ice tea … Music: Pop (Michael Jackson) and R&B … Reading: mysteries, action novels … Athlete: Karani James