7 fingers, 7 victories: Edward Kemboi wins 7th Big 12 title


Senior Edward Kemboi (left) motions to redshirt senior Patrick Peterson during the final lap of the men’s 800-meter run at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship at on May 17 at the Cyclone Sports Complex in Ames. Kemboi won the event and Peterson finished in third.

Luke Manderfeld

Three-time all-American Edward Kemboi is no stranger to winning, so when he did it once again on the final day of the Big 12 Outdoor Championship, he knew exactly how to react.

As Kemboi passed the finish line leading the 800-meter race pack, he threw his hands up and held up a seven sign with his hands — seven fingers.

“I was supposed to celebrate, but you know there are some rules when you do some stuff,” Kemboi said with a wide grin. “They might DQ [disqualify] you. So I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to cool it for now.’”

So Kemboi replicated what he did after his win at the Big 12 Indoor Championship this season and held up the number of Big 12 victories he owns — at that time it was six fingers, now it’s seven.

The senior came into the race with a mentality that it would be his last time at the Big 12 Championship as a Cyclone. That crossed his mind as his body crossed the finish line.

“I wanted to win one more last time being a Cyclone,” Kemboi said. “I’m running at home for my last one and I wanted to make it worth it. I needed it so badly — finally I got it.”

The conditions during the day weren’t the easiest for the long-distance runners with a strong headwind in the backstretch of the track. It made the 800 that much tougher.

Kemboi and his teammate in the 800, Patrick Peterson, decided to stay in the third and fourth spot for the first 650 meters of the race, which Kemboi said helped him avoid the wind. When Kemboi rounded the last turn and turned on the jets, as he always does, he blew by his teammate and front runner Brandon Moore of Baylor.

But he didn’t just blow past his teammate, he gave Peterson a sign — a few waves and a tap on the side.

Kemboi was doing what he is known to do — help his teammate.

“I just wanted him to follow me,” Kemboi said. “We were close to finishing one and two, so I was just trying to call him to come with me.”

Peterson had already used most of his energy during the beginning of the race so he struggled to keep up with the champion but still managed to grab a third-place finish. Before the race, Peterson, Kemboi and ISU coach Jeremy Sudbury had a plan — to keep the two together.

“Today it wasn’t about one of us trying to win, it was about us running together,” Peterson said. “He was waving me and I was trying to go with him, but it’s good. He’s fit and I’m fit and we just had to put it together.”

As the race came down to the end, it came between Kemboi, Moore and Peterson. But Peterson said there was no chance to catch up to the reigning indoor champion after Kemboi turned on the afterburners. 

“I knew it was going to come down to us three,” Peterson said. “We all fought for it. [Kemboi] beat us in the end. It’s hard to beat the national champion.”

Coasting to victory, Kemboi added a third outdoor Big 12 title in the 800. As he made the kick in the last 150 meters he sure made the win look easy, so maybe the win was easy for the Kenyan native.

“Yeah, it was easy for me,” Kemboi said immediately. “In the last 150 [meters], I did exactly what coach [Sudbery] told me. … You just have to win it. That’s what I did today, just wait until there is 100 [meters] to go and make a move. I did exactly what he told me.”

There are few runners in ISU history who have done what Kemboi has done in his four-year career with the Cyclones. Three all-Americans, seven Big 12 titles and multiple finishes on the ISU top-10 lists. The win was just another attachment to his long list of accomplishments.

“I just wanted to add another title to my résumé,” he said. “I didn’t want to disappoint my fans — Cyclone fans. I’m pretty sure they all came to watch me. I’m happy because I just won. I’ve been proving it for a long time, but I proved it to them today.”

And his ISU story isn’t over yet.

Kemboi will head to Austin, Texas, for the NCAA West Preliminaries where he will attempt to make another bid to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He won the NCAA Indoor Championship in the 800 in February.