ISU men’s track, field attempts to finish strong at Big 12 Outdoor Championship


Iowa State Daily

Senior Edward Kemboi fights his way through the pack during the men’s 800-meter run at the 2014 Big 12 Indoor Championship. Kemboi passed two runners in the final 150 meters and ended up taking first. He also took a title in the 1,000-meter race.

Luke Manderfeld

The ISU men’s track and field team has seen the best of times and it has seen the not-so-best of times this season, but for the weekend at hand, it is all hands on deck. 

Iowa State will stay at home for the first conference meet in Ames, since the 1995 Big 8 conference meet, and the first official track and field competition at Iowa State’s Cyclone Sports Complex. It will also be a last chance for some of the athletes trying to qualify for bigger and better meets. 

The Cyclones had major success at the Musco Twilight Invitational and Payton Jordan Invitational two weeks ago, notching five personal records in the three-day meets. 

But the meet the week before, the Drake Relays, saw some struggles from some of the runners. The distance medley relay, one of the Cyclones’ best events, had a spill that may have cost them a top-three finish. The same luck fell upon the 4×800 relay where the first leg, Brandon Wheat, went down with an apparent injury. The relay recovered and finished sixth. 

Both of those events will be absent from the Big 12 outdoor meet, but the individual runners will compete and will have another crack at high finishes in their events.

And with a two-week break in between the last meet, Iowa State has tweaked a few things and is now ready to break out one of its best performances of the year, surely at a good time.

A runner who was involved in both of the aforementioned events has a good feeling about this one.  

“I’ve been talking to a few of my teammates and they said, ‘I think I’m running better than I ran two weeks ago,'” said 800 and 1,000-meter indoor champion Edward Kemboi, who will be in the 800 and the 4×400 relay this weekend. “I just want my teammates to go to regionals. If they run really good, they won’t have a problem making regionals. We are ready to go.”

Kemboi will be in an unusual spot in terms of his ISU career, competing in the 4×400. He usually competes in the 4×800, which won’t be in this season’s meet. He ran the 400 once this season at the Sun Angel Track Classic, running to a personal-best mark of 47.94 seconds. But for Kemboi, his portion of the 4×400 relay will be a blast from the past and one that he is excited to take on.

“Well, I’ve run the 400 before, it’s what I grew up on,” Kemboi said, referencing his childhood running career in his hometown of Eldoret, Kenya. “I know what it takes to run the race.”

Kemboi has three outdoor all-Americans under his belt from 2011, 2012 and 2014, all in the 800. Despite his willingness to tackle the 4×400, the 800 will be the spotlight for the ISU men this weekend as it was last season after Kemboi earned 10 points for his first-place finish.

And the all-American sure doesn’t lack any confidence.

“I usually say, ‘once a champion, always a champion,'” he said with a grin on his face. “I’m going to do it again. I’m not going to promise, but I’m going right there and do what is good for business.”

Kemboi will be part of the Cyclones’ strong suit heading into the Big 12 meet. The distance runners accounted for a large percentage of points in the team’s last place finish at last season’s Big 12 Outdoor Championship. 

“The distance guys are running really well,” said sprinter and hurdler Derek Jones, who said he feels in tip-top condition this week. “That is our strong spot. We just want a good last run from the team. We are in a good spot and I’m excited to see what we can do.”

According to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on May 11, Iowa State is ranked 81st in the nation, behind all of the other Big 12 men’s track and field programs. 

Five of the eight schools that have men’s track and field teams in the Big 12 are ranked in the top 25 with Texas leading the pack, ranked in sixth place. Oklahoma State pulled off a sweep at the Big 12 Indoor Championship and has a chance to be the third team in the history of the conference to grab a sweep in both the indoor and outdoor meets. 

The Cyclones had success against the Big 12 before, finishing fifth in the Big 12 indoor meet, which was their best finish since 1997.

With the high level of competition, the Cyclones look overmatched on paper. But in their heads, they are on-par with the rest of the pack. 

“Definitely,” said decathlete Taylor Sanderson when asked if he feels the team has a legitimate shot at a top spot. “A lot of our guys who are supposed to score high are going to have to do their jobs. I feel like if our scorers can do their jobs, I feel we can do well — somewhere in the top half.”