South Africa native breaking records at WKU

Sophomore David Mokone takes a break during practice Monday at Ruter Track and Field Complex. Mokone has broken the school record for the 800-meter twice and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference championships this weekend with the rest of the track team.

Chela Counts

Whether taking a 15-hour plane ride or breaking records in 800-meter races, David Mokone has proven that he can go the distance. 

This season, the sophomore middle distance runner has twice broken WKU’s indoor 800-meter record, which previously stood for 23 years. 


Mokone earned Sun Belt Conference Track Athlete of the Week honors for both of those efforts.

Head Coach Erik Jenkins said he first saw Mokone compete at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, and knew he needed to recruit the 6-foot-6 runner.

“Obviously he’s 6-foot-6, but I watched him move, and he stood out to me,” Jenkins said. “He can run 400 through 12k if he had to. He is a rare breed that can run short to long.” 

Mokone was raised in the township of Bultfontein, South Africa, and took the 15-hour flight to the U.S. after competing on the college level for the University of the Free State. 

He said his teachers have always guided him in track and field while growing up. 

“When I was in elementary school, there was a teacher named Ms. Tshelo who was an athlete, too — she was the one who got me into running,” Mokone said. “… And after Ms. Tshelo, there was another lady called Ms. Mathe. She is the one that told me I would make a good middle distance runner.

“She was an athlete as well and had that insight.” 

Although Mokone happens to be the only athlete in his immediate family, those around him have always been able to see his athletic talent. 

“There was a guy named Louis Theron, and this guy has been my inspiration,” Mokone said. “He recruited me from public school and was a coach at another public school in Bloemfontein, so I moved from Bultfontein to Bloemfontein, and from there, the competition was tough.”

Mokone said while running in high school, he posted a 1:59 time in the 800-meters, but the success was harder to sustain when he got to WKU.

“People would always say ‘Watch out for him,’” Mokone said. “But then I came here, and it was hard for me to run that time.”

Adjusting to new teammates, new coaches and a new country, Mokone said his first year as a Topper did not go as planned. 

“I told myself last season, ‘I have high expectations when it came to Western Kentucky,’ but I did not fulfill my expectations, and I did not run as I was expecting,” he said. “Now I work hard through the fall and winter to make sure I am the best that I can be.”

Mokone has a chance this weekend to make an impact in the team’s biggest meet of the season.

WKU will travel to the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Saturday and Sunday to compete in the Sun Belt Indoor Championships.

Mokone will compete in the 800-meter, mile, medley relay and 4×400-meter events.

Sophomore sprinter De’Myco Winston, another runner on the 4×400 relay team, said Mokone will help the Toppers take home a win in this event. 

“David is a good aspect since he’s a distance runner,” Winston said. “He can keep his pace longer than anyone on the team.”

Mokone, who has yet to go back to South Africa during his time at WKU, said he’d like to go back to Bultfontein one day and work as a life coach.

“My ultimate goal is to graduate and go back home and give back to my community,” he said.