The Saint Leo Men’s Cross Country and Track team got a new addition to their roster for the 2016/17 season, who might have a major impact on the program. Ronald Cheserek is a freshman from Kitale, Kenya with an extraordinary talent for distance running.
His American Dream started back in Dec. when head coach Kent Reiber and his assistant coaches made the long journey over to Kenya to recruit athletes. The almost eight-thousand-mile journey from Florida to Kenya takes over a day of travelling with multiple stops along the way. Close to the border to Uganda they me t Cheserek in the Cherangani Hills.
After having many successes with recruits from Europe over the past few years, the coaches want to continue to raise the bar on the way to become a nationally recognized program. The Saint Leo coaches visited high schools, talked to other coaches and athletes to find potential recruits. One of these athletes was Cheserek, who was absolutely excited about the potential opportunity of going to the USA to continue his running career. Coach Callahan still remembers how Cheserek said that their visit gave him motivation again to train hard and pursue his passion.
Kenyan runners are dominating the running sport, which is the most universal and accessible sport in the world. In 2011, Kenyans won 17 medals at the Track and Field World Championships just in middle and long-distance running events. In that year the twenty fastest marathon runners were also all from Kenya.
“Most parts of Kenya are in high altitude areas, which increases the amount of red blood cells and that increases the oxygen intake. Also, the runners are working very hard to be successful. We have many heroes that motivate others to run because we see how their life can change. You develop a passion and want to become like him/her. In addition to that many kids have to run to school five miles every day,” said Cheserek.
The elevation of his home town is 6200 foot. For people that are not used to the altitude it would be extremely challenging to train in those elevations through the lack of oxygen in the air, but the native people are fully adjusted. Many international top runners go to Kenya every year to find these ideal training conditions. But that is not the only thing that is different from Florida and the USA in general.
“The food is very different from what I used to eat back home in Kenya. Also, everybody here owns a car and the houses are really nice,” said Cheserek.
This season is a very special one for the Saint Leo Athletic Department, since they will be hosting the Cross Country National Championship on the Abbey Golf Course right across the University Campus. After hosting the Regional meet last year, the Athletic department is trying to have Saint Leo Teams and Individuals in contentions for All-American awards.
Last year Colett Rampf got the first individual Cross Country All-American in Saint Leo school history and this year Cheserek is looking forward to do the same on the men’s side. At this level he will even have to compete against many other Kenyan runners, who represent their Universities in the United States. Also, many of the top teams in the country train at high altitude levels, which gives them an advantage the competition.
At their first race of the season both, Rampf and Cheserek earned the SSC athlete of the week award to start of the season right.