Bosnian refugee honored with award for valor
Merzudin Ibric has overcome much in his young life.
As a youngster he fled his homeland, war-torn Bosnia, in 1998, settled in Revere, attended Phillips Academy and then Wheaton College, where he attained All-America status on the track and in the classroom. Today, he is an activist against genocide and works for the US government.
Last Tuesday, he was one of four individuals honored with an Award of Valor from the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference at its annual fall convention in Hyannis. The award, established in 1985, recognizes student-athletes whose “courage, motivation, and relentless determination serves as an inspiration to all. . . . Recipients exemplify strength of character and perseverance deserving recognition as being truly triumphant.’’
Ibric is truly triumphant.
When he landed in America with his parents, plus two brothers and two sisters, he knew just two words of English — OK and bye — words he picked up watching Hollywood movies like “Rambo.’’
Before fleeing Bosnia, though, he lived through a war that eventually claimed more than 100,000 lives, including an uncle. He rummaged for food, endured squalid living conditions, and saw his father and sister seriously wounded by shrapnel.
Yet sports — particularly soccer — helped Ibric bridge the communication gap. He starred at Revere High, attracting the attention of college recruiters, and landed at Phillips thanks to his academic excellence. At Wheaton, he caught the eye of coach Marc Mangiacotti, who steered him to the track program. There, he earned national championships and All-America honors in the 400 meters, and on the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay teams. Mangiacotti nominated Ibric for the ECAC Award of Valor and the NCAA Inspiration Award. That winner will be announced next year in San Antonio and Mangiacotti believes Ibric is a strong contender.
Ibric “was the first person I thought of when the ECAC and NCAA asked for nominations,’’ said Mangiacotti. “Just knowing what he faced and what he overcame and the things he went through just to get to where he is now is an inspiration to everyone. His is simply an amazing story. He persevered through all the traumatic times in his life and is now giving back to people who helped him. He remembers his roots and is actively trying to prevent things that he saw from ever happening again. He is most deserving of this award.’’
Ibric, who graduated from Wheaton in May with a major in international relations, now works in Washington for the federal government, but would not divulge in what department or in what capacity.
“I was thrilled to be nominated for the Award of Valor,’’ he said. “Just to be considered was an honor. Now, to be told that I have won it is simply amazing. I am humbled and grateful.’’
Ibric has nearly completed a book, “Running For My Life,’’ which chronicles his experience of war and genocide and his fight for survival. It’s current up to his freshman year at Wheaton. Now, he says, “it’s time to start working on it again and updating it’’ to include his sophomore, junior, and senior years. It is, he says, “a story to be continued.’’
Ibric shared the Award of Valor with Keene State College grad Erin Dallas, who overcame a near-fatal tissue-eating disease and went on to have an All-America field hockey career; former Springfield College lacrosse captain Erin Doolan, who struggled with thyroid cancer yet managed to achieve All-Conference honors and graduate with his class in May 2009; and Manhattan College sophomore Kevin Laue, believed to be the first one-handed NCAA Division 1 basketball player to earn a scholarship.
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