Mwangong strides back to championship form

Mark Pawlak

Mike Mwangong started off well in his mission to become an All-American this season as a member of the ISU men’s cross country team.

In Iowa State’s first meet of the season, at the highly competitive Roy Griak Invitational Saturday in Minneapolis, Mwangong finished 29 out of 311 runners.

“I truly felt that I ran good. Throughout the race I wasn’t struggling at all,” the junior said. “That helps me out a lot about this season that I’m in much better shape than I was two years ago.”

It was two years ago that Mwangong made an immediate impact as a freshman.

After winning the ISU Open, he earned all-Big 12 honors by placing ninth at the conference championship. Mwangong followed by taking 5th at the NCAA Midwest Regional to qualify for the NCAA championships.

At the championships, Mwangong was the second freshman to cross the finish line and 66th overall.

Last season, Mwangong wasn’t able to qualify for the national championship as he finished 25th at the regional competition. Only the top four finishers not qualifying with a team advance to the national championships.

This fall, Mwangong looks to be in great running shape and poised to return to the national championships.

“He’s been training really well,” head coach Kevin Bourke said.

Mwangong didn’t realize how good of shape he was in until after his last race.

“Most of the time after the race I’m tired a little bit. This year I didn’t feel like I had ran that race. That means I’m in that better of shape than I was,” he said.

Bourke sees Mwangong being ready to have a good season.

“He knew what he needed to do this year to get back to [the championships]. Just looking at his training and the one race so far, he’s ahead of where he was two years ago when he qualified for the NCAA,” Bourke said.

“I expect to have a very good season this year. My goal is to become an All-American this season, no question about it,” Mwangong said.

Mwangong came to Ames from Eldoret, Kenya. He is one of three native Kenyans on the Cyclones’ roster, in addition to freshman Wilson Arusei and sophomore Abraham Rotich. Being more adjusted to the United States has allowed Mwangong to repay the assistance he received from some fellow Kenyans that were seniors when he was a freshman.

“Here we are in a foreign country. You don’t know anybody when you come. When I first came here there were some Kenyans situated ahead of me,” Mwangong said. “When I needed anything I asked some of them questions. They used to help me. Now it’s my opportunity to help [the younger runners] if they have questions or need any help.”

The biggest differences Mwangong has seen in running at Iowa State and in Kenya has been in training and coaching.

“The basic difference is the way you train,” Mwangong said. “You have to be on a schedule here.”

The different coaching style has helped Mwangong.

“Here the coach knows exactly what I’m supposed to do in order for me to improve myself,” he said. “It helps a lot.”

The Cyclones next compete Oct. 13 at the Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.

“I know it’s not a big meet like we had in Minneapolis. I’m very sure that I’ll do what I can do to make sure I get a good performance down there,” Mwangong said.