This year’s NCAA Cross Country National Championships are still months away but it’s looking like there could be an international battle toward the front of the race. Justyn Knight, a Canadian world championship finalist at Syracuse, could go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald, another world championship qualifier from Australia. Before Patrick Tiernan’s victory last year, the last seven individual men’s champions were Kenyan-born. So who may be the next NCAA cross country stars from the rift valley?
Enter Alabama’s Gilbert Kigen and Vincent Kiprop. Who are they exactly?
Personal Bests: 800 meters, 1:53.43; 1,000 meters: 2:29.83; 1,500 meters: 3:47.77; Mile: 4:04.50; 3,000 meters: 8:20.32; 5,000 meters: 13:53.61; 10,000 meters: 29:33.19
- A two-time NJCAA cross country national champion and 10-time champion on the track. He capped his sophomore year by winning the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters at the NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in May. His victory in the 10,000m was not just a personal best but more than a minute faster than the runner-up.
- Two of his seven siblings were also accomplished runner. His brother Festus ran 13:50.21 as a junior at TCU. His oldest brother Wildred Kigen once clocked a 2:07.33 marathon as the runner-up of the 2007 Hamburg Marathon.
- He attended Kaptagat Preparatory School in Kenya. That’s the same area where some of the best runners in the world, including Eliud Kipchoge, are based.
Personal Bests: 1,500 meters: 3:45.24 HT; Mile: 4:11.17; 3,000 meters: 7:57.49; 5,000 meters: 13:42.42; 10,000 meters: 28:19.94; 3,000 meter steeplechase: 9:17.12
- He’s from Kericho, Kenya and attended Londiani Boys High School before running at Missouri Southern State.
- He finished his two years at MSS with five national championships. He won his first title as a freshman in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships. As a sophomore, he improved upon his runner-up finish from the previous year to win the 2016 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. He won the NCAA Division II Indoor 5,000 meter title and was less than a second from Adam State’s Sydney Gidabuday for the 3,000 meter title. He would beat Gidabuday en route to outdoor titles in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
- He was reportedly recruited by accident after MSS was looking at another Kenyan athlete who was unable to pass the admissions tests.
- He was studying nursing at Missouri Southern in hopes of giving back to his community in Kenya.
While it’s very easy to get excited about talent coming over from Kenya, there’s no mistake that there have been some hit and misses when it comes to international recruiting over the years.