WKU’s Chemweno running for home

Senior cross country runner Vasity Chemweno comes from Eldoret, Kenya, also known as the City of Champions. “Everyone who runs in Kenya comes form that city,” Chemweno said. That includes teammate Marion Kandie, one of WKU’s top women’s runners.

Mercedes Trent

Sometimes a finish line is more than chalk on the grass. For Vasity Chemweno it’s her public health degree and return to Kenya. 

The senior cross country competitor grew up training in the high altitude of Eldoret, Kenya, also known as the “City of Champions” because, according to Chemweno, “everyone who runs in Kenya comes from that city.”

It wasn’t until moving to Eldoret for high school that Chemweno ran competitively. While her eight-member family is athletic, Chemweno said she is the only one who runs. 

“When I started running, I could see some other people from my country going to the Olympics and so I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to start running and see how I do,’” Chemweno said. “And you hear other people going to another country and getting their education and they come back and get another good job, so that’s a good thing.” 

Women’s Distance Coach Michelle Scott said the altitude allotted to Kenyans training at home seems to “give them an advantage over everybody else.”

Growing up in Kenya could also make them more competitive, Scott said, mentioning both Chemweno and her Kenyan teammate, Marion Kandie. 

“They’ve been brought up a whole lot different. They have a much different background,” Scott said. “They’ve probably had a much harder life than any of us have ever had, and I’m sure we don’t even know the half of what they’ve gone through to get here.

 “I think that’s what make them so competitive…They want things so much more.”

Scott said that while there are advantages to the training environment in Kenya, that doesn’t detract from the level of training the competitors have to adhere to once they compete in America.

Scott added that Chemweno’s performance in the remaining season will contribute to a team conference championship, as well as more experience for Chemweno to boost her to the national level next year.

Chemweno said she’s “not used to long distances,” and Scott agreed that Chemweno is “still learning cross country.”

Scott said the fact that Chemweno is a “huge competitor” will help her adjust to racing longer distances.

“She’s always a surprise because in training (she) puts out so much, but then she races so much better than she ever does in training,” Scott said.

Chemweno competes in the four-by-four relay and the 800-meter race in track and field, as well as the longer distance races for cross country. 

“That’s a unique set of circumstances,” Head Coach emeritus Curtiss Long said. “And then when you add the academics onto it, you have the total package.”

Chemweno, a NCAA Academic All-American last season, is a public health student working on her graduate work to secure her qualifications before her cross country eligibility runs out next fall.

“School is very important to me,” Chemweno said. “Public health is something that deals with people so you learn how to interact with people, help them discover these things (are) not good for their health.”

Chemweno hopes to work in the United States for a few years before ultimately returning to Kenya.

“Here is like a second home to me,” Chemweno said. “Sometimes you’re homesick, but you know it’s good because you’re getting opportunities. It’s good to help your country, the future.”