Kemboi finds his way to US, ISU cross-country team

Caitlyn Diimig

A group of three other runners stood around him in a semi-circle trying to teach him the team’s post-run workout.

He hates these workouts.

Edward Kemboi is a freshman in agriculture biochemistry and one of the cross-country team’s newest international recruits, hailing from Eldoret, Kenya. Kenya is a developing country in East Africa where 50 percent of the population is below the poverty line.

“When I was training I didn’t think I’d make it to U.S.,” Kemboi said.

Kemboi began running his freshman year in high school, competing in the 400-meter dash. He never thought he’d be running long distance, but he never thought he’d be in America either.

Through his own initiative, he found a spot on the team.

“I just went through the website for Iowa State,” he said.

He had heard about Iowa State’s running program from past athletes who had lived in Kenya.

“I called my friend who had graduated from Iowa State some time back,” Kemboi said. “He encouraged me to join ISU, so I just decided to come.”

Iowa State often gets new runners from Kenya.

“We’ve had a pretty long-standing tradition of getting international athletes, especially from Africa, here at the track and field program,” coach Corey Ihmels said.

Ihmels makes the voyage to Africa once a year for about one to two weeks to gain recruits.

“We want someone that’s excited about coming and getting an education,” Ihmels said.

Other past recruits from Kenya include junior Betsy Saina and graduate Hillary Bor.

Even with the other recruits from Kenya, he still misses home, and sometimes gets shy talking about it.

“I miss it, especially my mom,” Kemboi said. “I miss her. She tries to call me weekly on Saturdays.”

He said doesn’t know when he’ll see her next.

“It’s really expensive to go to Kenya,” he said. “It’s a lot for me. I don’t have the money.”

When he does feel sad, he has one person in particular he can talk to. Edwin Serem is his cousin and also a freshman recruit for the cross-country team.

Serem stands slightly taller, but he is just as shy. He also has a distaste, unsurprisingly, for post-run workouts.

“No,” Serem said simply about liking the workouts.

Kemboi and Serem get help each day in practice from team members who teach the two cousins the team’s training techniques.

Kemboi is getting used to the hard ground of America. Kenya’s earth is much softer to run on.

He prefers to run inside. The constant circling doesn’t bother him.

“I just keep in mind that it’s a better place to train — not like outside,” Kemboi said.

Although Kemboi would rather run track over cross-country, he reminds himself of why he would run in Kenya.

“I usually kept in mind to do some practice for myself, do it for a matter of fun,” Kemboi said.