Front runner grad student paces RedHawk XC team
The Miami University men's cross country team has finished second in all three meets this year and hope to turn that into a first place finish as the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship and NCAA Championship approaches.
The team has a runner that just might make that possible.
Graduate student Steve Kiplagat is using his fifth year of eligibility to run for the RedHawks and has already left his mark, placing second and fifth in his two meets this year.
Kiplagat moved to the United States in 2008 from Kenya to study economics and math with a minor in computer science at St. Lawrence University in New York, graduating with honors in economics.
However, the move from Kenya was not much of a culture shock for Kiplagat.
"[The move] was alright," Kiplagat said. "It was everything I expected."
Kiplagat ran cross-country at St. Lawrence, earning All-American honors twice in Division III.
"It was a great small school, with class sizes similar to Miami. I had a great time," Kiplagat said.
Senior Jarrod Eick is glad Kiplagat chose Miami.
"Steve definitely brings [the team] to the next level," Eick said. "It is nice to have two front runners; it improves our depth."
Head Coach Warren Mandrell said Kiplagat is a great addition to the team.
"[Kiplagat] is a front runner and a fast runner; he makes a huge difference," Mandrell said. "He helps the team's confidence. The greater number of solid runners we have, the lower the pressure gets."
Kiplagat has influenced both Eick and Mandrell since joining the team two weeks before classes began.
"He's one of the guys," Eick said. "It's nice to run with him; he's a good guy."
Mandrell learned more about Kiplagat on the drive to the men's first meet in Dayton, Ohio.
"He brings a different cultural background," Mandrell said. "We talked about Kenya and his family. Steve brings an interesting dimension to the team."
Mandrell is impressed with Kiplagat's level of maturity.
"Steve has a different maturity level than a new freshman," Mandrell said. "He's been around the block more."
Kiplagat said he emailed and called Mandrell to join the team because he was in need of assistance through a scholarship. However, cross-country was not the initial reason Kiplagat chose Miami.
"The classes at Miami are similar to the ones at St. Lawrence," Kiplagat said. "It's [also] much warmer [than St. Lawrence] at Miami, and I wanted a different experience."
Kiplagat has had no problems transitioning.
"My teammates have helped me the most; they showed me around. They helped me out a lot," Kiplagat said. "I also have two Kenyan friends that have helped me."
The men's team competes in the MAC Championships Oct. 27 in Buffalo, NY. Miami has one goal for this meet.
"Everyone wants to win the MAC," Kiplagat said. "We have a solid team, Eick and [junior] Dave Wing are playing a big role."
Kiplagat also has a personal goal that will leave him satisfied no matter the result.
"I'll just put in my best and we'll see what happens."
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