At 10 years old, sophomore cross country star Karn Setya wasn’t inside playing Madden with his friends. He wasn’t lacing his cleats up and asking his dad to bring him down to the baseball field. He wasn’t even confined to the track training hard for a career spent running. Instead, he was in the streets of his Central Jersey neighborhood playing the second-most popular sport in the world: cricket.
“Growing up I played a lot of cricket, street cricket basically. Where I lived there’s a lot of Indians and Asians,” Setya said. “I also taught my non-Indian and Asian neighbors as well. We’d have a good 10 people playing cricket after school.”
When Setya was just a baby, his family left his birthplace of Buffalo to move to India to be with his ill grandfather. It was there that he learned the ins and outs of India, including his first language, Hindi, and his love for the sport he now dubs his favorite.
“My dad and my grandfather love cricket,” Setya said. “My dad gets the whole World Cup package and all the series in between. So I’m constantly checking my ESPN cricket updates.”
Setya attributes a large part of his identity to his heritage and family that introduced him to his favorite sport. But at times, his connection to India has come at a cost to his training here in the United States. He spent nearly all of the summer before his freshman year in India visiting with his grandparents, who he remains very close with, despite living in a completely different hemisphere. His time spent in India, though rewarding, made it difficult for him to train the way he would here in the U.S and at NYU. Setya had lingering hip and calf injuries from his senior year of high school, and with his travels hindering his ability to take care of them and properly train, his performance fell short of the standards he set for himself.
“Going into summer I still had that injury, and I was travelling, so I couldn’t really get that work in,” Setya said. “[In India] I have to wake up at 5:30, go with my grandfather to the lake that’s about one or two kilometers out, and run back. And it’s not even soft stuff or anything, it’s all cement.”
Now, a little over a year removed from the summer that set him back, Setya is competing about as well as he could have expected. In the team’s opening meet, Setya placed fourth overall to help the team take second place. He didn’t make the trip to India this summer because he had problems with flights, and instead he spent his time training to incredible lengths to get back to where he wanted to be.
“I did a lot of work over the summer, a lot of 70 or 80 mile weeks,” he said. “My dad always tells people and they’re always impressed and are like ‘Yeah I don’t drive that much, I couldn’t imagine your son running that much.’”
Despite his intensity on the course, he remains a pretty basic guy off it— getting his school work done, running, and hanging out with his friends. But the hyper-competitiveness that he shows on the track is certainly making an impact on a team that he describes to have a chip on its shoulder.
“Our team’s kind of got a point to prove,” Setya said. “We’re those guys that always tend to go to nationals, and last year we had a new head coach and it was our first year and we didn’t make it.”
For someone who has faced moving, the difficult training conditions of India, and a string of injuries to make it to the top of the team in his sophomore year, it certainly seems like nationals is not too tall of an order.