Nelson Kemboi, a junior nursing major, competed in the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Brookings, South Dakota, on March 3 and 4. With a time of 8 minutes and 26.43 seconds, he finished sixth in the country in the 3,000-meter (1.86-mile) race.Breaking the school record, he placed sixth in the country and was granted the All-American title, which is only awarded to the top eight in the country in each event.
After taking a short break from cross country, Kemboi began training for indoor nationals. When asked what training for an All-American title looks like, Kemboi said, “It means having that discipline, commitment and self-awareness … always being out of [my] comfort zone. I always want to feel pain training, but not racing.”
Despite receiving an individual reward, Kemboi spoke about how important it is to have a supportive team.
“Support your teammates. They are the ones pushing you towards your goals,” he said.
The track and field facility in Brookings has a 300-meter track, which is between the distance of the outdoor 400-meter track and the usual indoor 200-meter track. This makes Kemboi’s 3,000 an even 10 laps around the track.
Kemboi’s journey to the national final involved a preliminary race run on the second day of competition. There were two ways to qualify for the 3,000 final: finish in the top three of the heat to automatically qualify or have one of the three next best times.
Kemboi was eventually placed into the first of three heats. In his preliminary heat, he settled into the middle of the pack, staying there until about halfway through the race. Then he moved into first, strung out the competition to finish third and automatically qualified for the final the next day.
“I felt pretty good on the first day,” he said. “Since I was in the first heat, the pace was a little slower, but I tried to push it a little because I was already thinking of finals.”
“I knew if I push to 8:30s pace, then heat two and three will go crazy time to tire them, giving me the green light to be an All-American,” Kemboi added.
In the final on March 4, he stepped to the line to race for the championship. The race began slowly, as it usually does in championship races, with Kemboi in the pack of runners waiting for someone to make a move.
Towards the middle of the race, the pace picked up dramatically. Kemboi was able to keep his composure and finish strong.
Kemboi is excited to compete heading into the outdoor track season, noting, “I still hope to be All-American this year in the outdoor track 5k, then my last cross country and my final two track seasons.”
With this performance, Kemboi has solidified himself as the best men’s distance runner in Goshen College history. He now holds four All-American awards and five school records.