From Kenya to America, Edward Kemboi finds his way through track


Ryan Young/Iowa State Daily

Senior Edward Kemboi chases after a Baylor runner in the men’s 800-meter run at the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 14. Kemboi finished first in the event.

Trey Alessio

Edward Kemboi didn’t even start track until he was in eighth grade, but he recorded the fastest time in the nation for the 800-meter run this past weekend at the Iowa State Classic.

Kemboi is a senior distance runner for the ISU track and field team, and he has come a long way.

It all started at a race called, Discover Kenya. Kemboi competed and won the 500-meter race. The rest is history.

“I wanted to come [to America] to study,” Kemboi said.

He was a hard-working student at Cheptil High School in Eldoret, Kenya. In Africa, in order to go on to pursue higher academia, Kemboi was told he had to get a C+ in high school.

Kemboi got the grades and through multiple phone calls and emails, he got linked up with Iowa State.

“The man I talked to told me he could see me going to his former college to study at Iowa State,” Kemboi said.

At that point, Kemboi didn’t even know what scholarship the man was offering. He had his sights set on running professionally, but he realized school might be a good route to do so.

Kemboi ended up going through Study Aboard Iowa State. He said he thought Iowa State was the only school in America.

He has had an exceptional career at Iowa State thus far, earning All-Big 12 honors in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also earned the right to call himself a Big 12 champion in the 800-meter in 2012 and three times in 2014. This past year, Kemboi was named a second-team All-American, but he wanted more.

“Sometimes going to a NCAA meet, you don’t have to set your mind on winning it,” Kemboi said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. I didn’t expect to be one of the fastest runners in America. All of the sudden, things happen. I’m still a little disappointed about it.”

Kemboi wanted to be first-team All-American, and this year, that’s what his ultimate goal is.

This past weekend at the Iowa State Classic, Kemboi put up huge numbers. He stole the spotlight during the 800-meter race on Feb. 14. Kemboi clocked a time of 1:46.09 — the nation’s top time, ranking him No. 1 in America.

Kemboi went from competing in a race for the fun of it in Kenya to No. 1 in America. When asked what track has done for him, Kemboi said it has taught him to view things differently.

“For the last three years, track has been crazy,” Kemboi said. “The 800 is a tricky event. If you make a little mistake, you are done. So right now, what I’ve learned is it’s not just running. You’ve just got to say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

The next meet Kemboi will compete in will most likely be the Big 12 Indoor Championships, where he will strive to be No. 1 again and move on to his goal of being a first-team All-American.