When Gordon Kenny C’95 reflects on his cross-country career atDrewUniversity, the moment that stands out to him the most is his very last race.
“It was my last race for Drew and my best,” he recalls. “I was really focused throughout the entire race. Nothing could faze me that day, even slipping and sliding a little bit down a hill. I ran the fastest I ever had on a difficult course, and, although I didn’t make Nationals, which had been my goal, it was still something to be proud of.”
A runner since he was about 8 years old, Kenny was a cross-country stand out at DrewUniversity, winning four MPV awards and the Drew Male Athlete of the Year award in his senior year and serving as team captain in his junior and senior years. He also raked in a variety of other honors, including NCAA All Mid-East Region, Division IIIAcademic All-American and All Middle-Atlantic Conference. He placed 15th at the NCAA Regionals in his last year at Drew.
“What I’ve always loved about running is the challenge,” he says. “Running has a physical and a mental element. You have to train your body to endure and your mind to push yourself. You almost always have to push back on the limits imposed by your mind on your physical ability to run. When everything is working at its best, it provides an almost meditative state of mind.”
Kenny’s cross-country interest was motivated early on by two things: a soccer coach who encouraged the team to run outside of practice and an older brother who had started running on the high-school cross country team. Even at a young age, he excelled and started doing road races.
“One of the things that really stands out for me was the immense dedication my parents made for me to be able to do all of these things,” says Kenny. “I started wrestling when I was 8, which involves a lot of weekend tournaments. I was on a traveling soccer team through much of my youth. And when I wasn’t doing these things, I was running races.”
When he wasn’t racing at Drew, Kenny, who selected Drew for its quality of education and small liberal arts experience, was a member of the Student Government (winning twice on a write-in ballot) and a recipient of the Drew Scholars scholarship program. He studied political science and economics—noting that he’s always been fascinated by the intersection between the two areas of study.
After college, Kenny earned an M.A. in political sciences from theUniversityofDelawareand enrolled in a Ph.D. program before moving onto a career that allowed him to be involved in policy and politics and not just study it. Today, he works for a small government relations firm inWashington,D.C., with a diverse group of clients. He primarily represents American Indian Tribal Governments before Congress and various agencies of the federal government. It’s a job that allows him to use his undergraduate and graduate degrees, but also the skills he learned as a college athlete. “Being on a team, or being engaged in any extracurricular activity for that matter, puts you in a situation where you really need to interact with people with lots of different interests and backgrounds,” he says.
Kenny married his wife, Leyla Mahbod, in 2004. As the father of two (Roya, 4, and Liam, 2), Kenny sees himself encouraging his children to participate in organized sports as they get older. If they choose that path, he’ll likely give them the same advice he offers to today’s student-athletes: “Do the best you can in the time you have. It really is a short period of time in your life. But, in the end, nothing you accomplish in your sport is as important as the relationships you forge with the people on your team. These can last a lifetime.”