Receva Duos ’18

No Hurdlesin Her Way

By Kathryn Howe

The most memorable moment of Receva Duos’ ’18 track career came in the last race of the 2017 indoor season. In the finals, she turned on the jets and ran a personal best in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 09.12 seconds.

“My teammates swarmed me when I crossed the finish line,” recalls Duos, a senior majoring in criminal justice and standout track and field captain. “We worked so hard all season. That day we were really a family.”

When she looked up at the time clock, she realized she had qualified for nationals. After freshman and sophomore seasons plagued by injuries, her hard work and determination had paid off. Track and Field Head Coach Jamie Jimison remembers the pride he felt for his athlete, noting that “the blessings Receva has had have never been lost on her.”

Duos’ story begins two decades ago, when her outlook seemed grim.

She was born in Sudan in 1996 at the height of a civil war between the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Lasting for more than two decades, the conflict is one of longest civil wars in world history and cost the lives of two million people—the civilian death toll the highest of any conflict since World War II.

That her family was not among them is why Duos believes in miracles. “God didn’t have to save us,” she says. “We are blessed.”

Lucky to be alive, the Duos family was among the four million citizens displaced by the war. In 1998, they fled for their lives, leaving all their belongings and oldest brother, Andrew, behind in the village of Mabaan. Duos’ father carried two-year-old Receva alongside her mother, two sisters, and three other brothers. Weeks went by and they kept putting one foot in front of the other.

“I don’t know how long we walked, but it was miles and miles,” Duos says. They crossed rivers and dangerous terrain until finally reaching a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where they lived for three years while awaiting sponsors in the United States.

The Duos family first arrived in Texas, settled in Atlanta in 2008, then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where Duos attended Roosevelt High School and ran track. After graduation, she was determined to continue her education.

“We came here for a better life, so whatever opportunities came my way, I was going to go after them,” she says. “I wanted to do something to make my family proud, here and back in Sudan. Many people wake up every day and don’t have a chance to go to college.”

Duos focused on smaller, private schools where she felt she could enjoy a strong sense of community. She also knew she wanted to study criminal justice and keep running. Her meeting with MMU professors and Coach Jimison sealed her decision, as did her receipt of the Catherine McAuley Scholarship for tuition.

“Coach Jimison is the reason I’m here,” Duos says. “He’s the reason I’ve made it this far.”

Escaping war has a way of gifting a person with deep gratitude, and Duos draws upon her past to seize every personal opportunity and give back to others. She is co-president of the Black Student Union, which aims to increase awareness of black culture on a predominantly white campus. During spring break last year, the group arranged trips to visit civil rights museums in Georgia and Tennessee.

“We came here for a better life, so whatever opportunities came my way, I was going to go after them,” Receva Duos ’18 says. “I wanted to do something to make my family proud, here and back in Sudan.”

After graduation in May, Duos intends to start her criminal justice career in the police force. She’s applied to police departments in Atlanta in hopes of gaining valuable field experience and filling a need for more diversity among police officers.

“Society benefits from diversity and people in leadership of different backgrounds,” says Duos, who is also considering law school in the future. “We don’t have a perfect criminal justice system by any means, and there aren’t many female African-Americans in the field. I hope my involvement can help balance the system and make it more just.” ■