Scholar Stories: Yesney combines passions for running, travel and film in Michigan

By Catherine Heher

Colton Yesney is someone you might be wondering how they fit everything into their days. He is a member of the University of Michigan cross country and track teams and has had a breakthrough cross country season in which he finished in the Michigan top 7 in all six races he competed in. Away from the trails and the racetrack, Yesney is a dual major in international studies and films, a vlogger, an avid geography fan, and an executive in both his school and his hometown.

While Yesney enjoys every aspect of it, he’s open about how difficult it can be to juggle it all.

“It’s stressful, very stressful,” he said. “It sure is a mental loop.”

His vlogging (video blogging) and film activities often have to take a back seat to his sporting and academic commitments if he wants even the semblance of a break. Still, his ability to embrace those passions along with an already demanding schedule is nothing short of extraordinary.

Like many student athletes, Yesney can attribute a large part of his success to hard work and discipline.

“The best way to learn something is to do it,” he said, explaining how he got into vlogging. His content often captures not only his own travels and experiences, but also those of his teammates throughout the season. It started mostly with Yesney wanting to get better at filming and editing, so he started documenting his life whenever he could.

This dedication is also evident in his growth as a runner. Yesney said he became a true competitive athlete early in high school when he began exercising during the summer off-duty. He is originally from Negaunee, Michigan, a small town in the Upper Peninsula where he knew only a few runners who had been recruited by NCAA Division I schools. To make up for this, Yesney attended many college running camps in the Midwest to get the exposure he needed to apply to a school like Michigan.

His involvement in vlogging and his experiences as a young runner both demonstrate the power of time and practice. There may not always be the perfect opportunity to pursue your goals, but there is always a place to start. This discipline was an important theme in Yesney’s life.

Growing up in a small town, an experience that fueled a desire to see the world, Yesney expressed an interest in being able to visit any country. He has always been interested in maps and geography, which he says only led him to travel more as he learned more about different regions and cultures. This wanderlust sparked his interest in film.

“It’s that way of documenting and sharing ideas, both visually and audibly, that you can’t achieve with any other medium,” he said.

A big part of Yesney’s love of film is his ability to document the stories and experiences he dreamed of from a young age.

Yesney isn’t exactly sure what life will be like after the University of Michigan, but his biggest dream is to make documentaries based on his experiences. He is considering furthering his education by pursuing a postgraduate degree in film to achieve these goals. He also hopes running will continue to play a part in his life, noting that in his travels he might enjoy running marathons around the world. After all, he wants the many things he does as a student to continue to play a big part in his life.

Inspiration is perhaps the biggest theme in all of Yesney’s motivations. While he is incredibly observant of the things that inspire and move him, he is also dedicated to expressing that passion in others. This shows in his conversations about film and travel, but also when he talks about his hometown. His ultimate goal is to be a role model for small town kids everywhere who feel that their circumstances are holding them back from achieving their dreams.

“Even if you’re from a small town that might not have the best resources or coaching, there are ways to work hard and get where you want to be,” Yesney said.

Above all, Yesney is incredibly grateful to be where he is today and for the people and experiences that have influenced his journey. Although he has big ambitions, he is also focused on enjoying the present. In many ways, this stems from his strong belief in the things he is meant to do.

“I want to inspire people,” he says. “I want to go out and help people, help communities around the world and make as much difference as possible.”