Chebet doing well in first WKU cross country season

Jonah Phillips

Senior Joseph Chebet’s long journey has taken him from Uganda to the top spot on WKU’s men’s cross country team.

Chebet was born in the Kapchorwa District of eastern Uganda, a district that also produced Stephen Kiprotich, men’s marathon gold medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Chebet came to WKU in 2011 as a mid-year transfer and found immediate success.  

This spring in Des Moines, Iowa he made the the NCAA Finals outdoor 5K, placing 23rd.

“The NCAA Tournament was a very good experience,” Chebet said, “It was so great just to make it to finals.”

The day of the finals, Chebet received a call from his father in Uganda. Chebet’s grandmother, who had been battling a heart illness, had passed away.

“Obviously, any time you lose somebody close to you, it’s very difficult, but he just went out and gave it his best,” Head Coach Erik Jenkins said. “We are extremely proud of him.”

Though the NCAA Tournament appearance has been the highlight of his young WKU career, Chebet has had success elsewhere.

 In 2009, Chebet began running for Ndejje University in Uganda.

He went on to compete at the championships that year in Serbia at the University of Belgrade.

“This is where it all began,” Chebet said of Ndejje.  

His first experience with WKU did not happen until nearly a year later.

“I had started recruiting Joseph about two years ago,” Jenkins said, “We knew of him through former runners WKU had had from Uganda.”

Jenkins met Chebet in 2010 at World Junior Championship in Montreal.

That meeting sparked a close friendship, Chebet said.  

Then, in the fall of 2011, Chebet moved to Bowling Green and became part of the WKU track and field program.

Due to his transfer status, he didn’t compete on the cross country team.

However, Chebet did compete in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

“I didn’t perform well in the trials leading up to the NCAA Tournament due to the big transition I was going through,” said Chebet. “It took courage.”

Chebet said Head Coach Emeritus Curtiss Long, teammate David Mokone and others helped him make the transition to WKU.

Chebet has high hopes and expectations for this fall, his first cross country season with the Toppers.

So far, he hasn’t disappointed.  

He placed second at the Belmont Opener in Nashville on Aug. 31, earning Sun Belt Runner of the Week honors.

He followed that performance by winning the Commodore Classic on Saturday in Nashville.   

“What Joseph has been able to accomplish is quite phenomenal,” Jenkins said, “We look forward to a successful cross country season.”