When Iowa State's Edward Kemboi stepped up to the line for his 1,000-meter run at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, he was going to attempt to do something he never had before.
Kemboi was faced with the task of running in back-to-back races with the 800-meter run following the 1,000-meter event. Winning a championship in each was also on the mind of the All-American.
“I told my coaches that I wanted to run back-to-back races. I wanted to for my team, not for myself,” Kemboi said.
The task might have appeared to be a very tall order for Kemboi to face, but he quickly proved to everyone that he was ready to accept the challenge, by winning the 1,000-meter run (2:22.50) and the 800-meter run (1:50.67). With the win, Kemboi became the first individual in Big 12 history to win the two races in the same meet.
Kemboi walked on to the track to begin his first race, the 1,000-meter run. Not only would this race be Kemboi's first of the day, but also the first time he would be competing in the 1,000-meter run this season.
“I had been training for the 1,000-meter for a long time,” Kemboi said.
The day began with the buzz focusing on the two races situated in the middle of the day: the 1,000-meter run and 800-meter run.
A more suitable challenge would be presented to Kemboi as the field was knocked down to only the best. Winning is all that Kemboi wanted to do, not only for himself, but to get his team more points, and he has one attribute that can be his greatest asset in middle distances races.
“Edward has an amazing kick," said ISU assistant coach Jeremy Sudbury. "We know they are going to try to go out hard and get him in trouble. So he knows to rely on the kick and hopefully it works out."
Kemboi crept up to the line, looking more focused than the day before in the preliminaries.
The day two start looked identical to the first. Kemboi stayed steady towards the back of the pack, not looking to make a move that the rest of the field wanted him to make too early.
He made it at just the right time.
In the last 200 meters, Kemboi edged himself in the inside of the lane, almost getting dangerously close to being too far on the inside at times.
Then as the last turn passed, he was deadlocked behind the leading man, looking as if he was not going to be able to have enough in the tank to burn past him on the outside.
Then the kick came.
Kemboi made the move to the second lane, head-to-head in the final straight away and his sprinting skills paid off. He quickly edged ahead of the opponent from Oklahoma State finishing a half of a second ahead with his arms up in the air and the biggest smile on his face.
He did it, he won the race that perhaps not many people knew he could win.
“I had confidence after the 1,000-meter because the next race was my race," Kemboi said. "Everybody knows the 800-meter is my race. I was ready to go."
Kemboi quickly jogged to the infield and began to warm up.
He was forced to skip the hugs, the congratulations and the awards ceremony where he would be announced as the top 1,000-meter runner in the Big 12.
With no longer than 30 minutes in between, it was go time for Kemboi. The leading 800-meter runner in the nation earned the expectation of the field, this was his race to lose.
He did not let the ISU supporters in attendance down. In the final lap of the race, and the long weekend for Kemboi, he kicked stronger than ever and led in the final 100 meters winning "his race" with ease.
Kemboi crossed the finish line, hands higher in the air than ever before and earned perhaps the loudest applause of the championship weekend.
He had solidified himself as one of the top runners in the country by picking up his second title of the weekend, this time in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:50.67.
“I’m about in tears. Winning Big-12 championships, back-to-back, it means the world to me," Kemboi said. "All the hard work had paid off."
He ended the meet responsible for 22.50 of the team’s points from the weekend.
“I knew after the 1,000-meter that I was able to win both and help my team. The 800-meter is my race, everybody knows that. No matter if someone is 10 or 15 meters ahead of me," Kemboi said. "I was not going to let someone come onto my track and take it from me. I wanted everyone to see the Cyclones shine and be on top."
It was throughout the championship weekend that he solidified in the mind of his coach that he is a special runner and one of the best in middle distance races in the country.
"Sometimes a coach only gets one athlete in his career like [Kemboi]," Sudbury said.