A Leap Of Faith: Gunnison's Baroumbaye Wins State TJ Title

Baroumbaye wins state seven years after arriving in U.S.

Story originally published in the May 23, 2019 edition of the Gunnison Country Times

Brandon Warr 

Gunnison Times Staff Writer

Relocating is never easy - especially for a young child, forced to pack his belongings and say goodbye to friends and family without knowing what the future holds. It's even more difficult when the child realizes that he isn't relocating to another town or state - but another continent.

Kelita Baroumbaye - a recent Gunnison High School (GHS) graduate and 2019 state champion in the triple jump - first arrived in the United States as a young child.

Kelita's father, Noubaissen Baroumbaye, who goes by "Nouba," moved to the U.S. from Chad, Africa, in 2008 on a visa in hopes of offering his family a life that was almost impossible to achieve in Chad.    

"I'm really appreciative of what my father did," said Kelita. "When I was a child I didn't think I would end up in the United States. Coming here was a really big move for him and when the rest of our family moved her with him it was really exciting for us."

In 2012, the rest of the Baroumbayes - including Nouba's wife and five children - arrived in Denver on visas, reuniting with Nouba, who they hadn't seen in two years. Yet, in the time since then, Kelita has made his mark not only in the realm of athletics at GHS, but within the community for his hardworking, yet humble, nature. 

'I didn't think about playing sports'

Once Kelita arrived in Gunnison, he attended the private One Room School House (ORSCH) - which has since closed - where he focused solely on learning English. 

"All I did was focus on English at ORSCH which really helped," said Kelita. "The people running it helped me a lot with my English, and we even used Google translator, which made it easier." 

The focus and help from the teachers at the ORSCH led to Kelita's understanding of the English language in a short year. From there, Kelita would continue to work on his English in middle school before stepping on GHS' campus for his freshman year.

"When I first arrived to the United States all I wanted to do is finish school," said Kelita. "I didn't think about playing sports. I liked soccer, so I played soccer for a little bit. That's the main sport we play in Chad, so that was the only sport I thought of."

In fact, Kelita didn't even think about joining a sports team at GHS until his sophomore year - when former head football and track and field coach Shane Zimmerman suggested he try the latter.

"I was like, 'Why not?" Kelita remembered. "I wasn't playing any sports in the spring, so I tried it out and ended up qualifying for state that year." 

At state his sophomore year, Kelita jumped 41-feet, eight-and-a-half-inches in the triple jump, earning ninth place. From that year on, he set a goal for himself to improve his mark by two feet every year - which he achieved, setting him up for his best finish yet.