Utah Valley University gave Everlyn Kemboi a home when she had few other places to go. In turn, she put it on the map.
Kemboi won the Wolverines’ first NCAA Division I national title in any sport Thursday when she dominated the 10,000-meter run at the Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas. Her time of 32 minutes, 39.08 seconds beat out runner-up Emily Venters of Utah by more than eight seconds and set the facility record at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
A redshirt senior from Kenya, Kemboi reached out to the UVU coaches after she was dropped from the Arizona team for refusing to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kemboi, who transferred there after spending two years at Texas-El Paso, said her father was sick at the time and she was only taking classes online. She said she only had a month after the Wildcats dismissed her to find another team before she would risk losing her visa status.
Coach Scott Houle, who is in his 19th season at the helm of the Wolverines women’s program, took her in.
“I was so happy,” Kemboi said in her post-victory interview, “that they understand and give me a chance to be part of UVU.”
Kemboi nearly brought in another national championship on Saturday in the 5k final, finishing second (15:39.57). She held the fastest time in the nation coming into the race, but was edged out by Florida’s Parker Valby (15:30.57). Venters finished in third (15:42.40) and Utah teammate Simone Ploudre took seventh (15:50.10).
Kemboi reached the 10k final last year with UVU but didn’t make the top eight. Entering Thursday’s race, she held the third-best time in the nation. She made her move with about three laps to go.
“When she made those moves over the last 1,200, I knew she was going to win it,” Houle told LetsRun.com. “How awesome it was to watch someone from Utah Valley University bring home a National Championship. It proves you can do it anywhere.”
Last fall, Kemboi became the first UVU cross country runner to receive all-American status.
But that’s nothing compared to winning a national championship.
“It’s insane. I don’t even believe I won,” Kemboi told LetsRun.com after the race. “I’m just thankful and grateful. I’ve been waiting for this time. I’ve been patient, trusted my training, and trusted my coaches.”
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