Kemboi uses time at Iowa State to prepare for the Kenyan Olympic Trials


Photo: Dani Harris/Iowa State Daily

Edward Kemboi walks out in the parade of 800-meter run finalists on the last day of the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Dylan Montz

At the age of 17, sophomore Edward Kemboi left his native home of Eldoret, Kenya, for Ames and Iowa State, not really knowing what to expect when he arrived in the United States for the first time.

Kemboi said he did not know what it would mean being a student at Iowa State, and his freshman year was a big adjustment for him.

“I had expectations about coming to the United States,” Kemboi said. “I [thought I would] feel like I’m somewhere better than my home [country] and when I came, everything [including school] was really different. The first day of classes I would be 15 minutes late and carry around my map.”

But long before Kemboi had aspirations of coming to the United States, he started training in sixth grade for local races, some of which he would win. Even though races would change distances as Kemboi became older, what did not change was that he would always stay at the front of the pack.

While in high school, Kemboi would run the 400-meter dash instead of the 800-meter run, the race that has brought him much success at Iowa State. Running the 400 in Kenya brought him success also, so he would run on weekends in different events after graduating from high school.

It was at one of the weekend events that Kemboi and ISU coach Corey Ihmels first were put in contact with one another. Kemboi said that he received advice from other people on if he would want to run at Iowa State and then made his decision.

“Iowa State is a good school with a good coach who will always be ready to assist you,” Kemboi said. “And I said, ‘Okay, this might be my time.’”

Ihmels said that besides Kemboi’s running talent, he saw other qualities in him that he thought would make Kemboi a good fit in the Iowa State program.

“He’s pretty conscientious and sensitive and just a very proud person,” Ihmels said. “He comes from pretty humble backgrounds, and it’s really important to him that he gets an education and makes his family proud and his country proud. He’s come a long ways and he’s a good person and just a good guy to have in the group.”

Kemboi said that he also chose Iowa State because “I just wanted to get out [of Kenya] and go some place that wasn’t really hot.” He was not able to visit Iowa State before arriving on campus for classes for the second semester of the 2010-2011 school year. Kemboi said he enjoyed Iowa except for one thing at that time.

“But when it comes to winter … [I am not really used to that],” Kemboi said. “I am used to it being 75 degrees throughout the winter in Kenya.”

Throughout his first two years at Iowa State, Kemboi has been an asset to the team breaking the 800-meter run school record in the 2011 outdoor (1:46.06). Ihmels said that with Kemboi still being so young, the ceiling for his running potential is very high.

“If he continues to progress outdoors and we end up running him and he gets some good opportunities, I think he’s got the capabilities of being in the Olympics,” Ihmels said. “Going to the Olympics and running for Kenya is like going to the NFL or the NBA in the United States so the fact that we’re sitting here talking about that just speaks volumes of what I think he’s capable of doing. He’s got what it takes not only athletically but just his personality and just the way he goes about things go hand in hand with his abilities.”

Kemboi said that he is really looking forward to trying to achieve an A-standard to run in the Kenyan Olympic Trials and that his young age does not intimidate him when running against older competitors.

“Age doesn’t matter much,” Kemboi said. “When you are in a race, it doesn’t matter much. For me, I may be 18 and running against somebody who is like 25, but he doesn’t have a lot of speed, so I’m in a position to beat him. For me, [age] doesn’t matter a lot, but it’s about how you train.”