Kenyan high school athlete in New Jersey billed a rock star, breaking records all over
Posted by Administrator on March 10, 2012
NEWARK — One recent morning at St. Benedict’s Prep, Edward Cheserek was asked how long it took him to get to a practice at Branch Brook Park, about a mile away.
“If I hurry,” said Cheserek, an 18-year-old junior from Kenya, “about four minutes.”
He was not kidding.
Cheserek, a 5-foot-6, 130-pound runner with a timid demeanor and explosive legs, ran the second-fastest indoor mile by a high school student, 4 minutes 2.21 seconds, in January at the New Balance Games at the Armory in Upper Manhattan.
Last month at the Armory, Cheserek continued to send shock waves across the high school landscape. On Feb. 11, he ran the fastest indoor 5,000 meters by a high school student, 13:57.04, at the Millrose Games, and on Feb. 28, he set the meet record for two miles at the Eastern States Championship, breaking Alberto Salazar’s 36-year-old record by an eye-popping margin, 8:54.82 to Salazar’s 9:01.1. (Cheserek managed to accomplish that feat two hours after running the mile leg of the distance medley relay in 4:06.6.)
“The kid is a rock star; he’s running high school times that are faster than people who went on to be Olympians,” said Cheserek’s coach, Marty Hannon. “He shows up at these events and people want his autograph, but he is as humble as he is talented. He really takes all of his success in stride.”
The autograph seekers will return to the Armory Friday through Sunday, when Cheserek laces them up against the nation’s top runners in the National Scholastic Indoor Championship.
“My teammates and I are very excited about competing in this event,” Cheserek said. “Our goal is to win both the sprint and distance medley relays as well as the two-mile race, but in order to do so, we have to keep our focus.”
Dr. Norbert Sander, the executive director of the Armory, said that Cheserek “is light-years ahead of any other high school miler” he has recently seen, and that he has the potential to topple the mile record of 3:59.86 set at the Armory in January 2001 by Alan Webb of South Lakes High School in Reston, Va.
“If he breaks that record,” Sander said, “it would be off the scale, a real seismic moment.”
Cheserek, who was born into and raised by a poor family of sheep and cattle farmers in the Kenyan village of Kapker, was chosen by a missionary group in July 2010 to attend St. Benedict’s Prep on an academic scholarship.
“Before he came to us, he was living in a mud hut with no electricity or running water,” Hannon said. “But he’s a very bright, well-mannered kid who has made a very comfortable transition here. He fits in very well.”
Long before he flew to New Jersey, Cheserek was a running sensation at Kapcherop High School — about 300 miles west of Nairobi — having been crowned the 10,000-meter champion of the Great Rift Valley. He was also a nationally acclaimed midfielder on the school’s soccer team.
“We knew he was a good runner, but we had no idea how good he was until we began working out with him,” Hannon said. “Edward was doing repeat miles on the track between four and a half and five minutes, when the standard times are between 4 minutes 55 seconds and five and a half minutes; it was shocking.”
In December, Cheserek won the Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championship in San Diego. Leading up to that race, he competed in seven cross-country events in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, and set a course record in each. He has been inspired by two Kenyan-born runners: Bernard Lagat, a four-time Olympian for the United States; and David Rudisha, who holds the world record in the 800 meters.
“I really look up to them,” Cheserek said. “It would be an honor for me to one day be considered in their class.”
Hannon, who noted that “most distance runners do not peak until they are about 29,” said he “could only imagine what kind of runner Edward is going to be in 10 or 11 years.”
In recent months, Hannon has received numerous phone calls from colleges and universities expressing interest in Cheserek. Those include Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Iona and Villanova.
But Cheserek said he had a great deal of distance to cover before running to the next level.
“Everything I have achieved motivates me to want to achieve more during my high school career,” he said. “I’m still young, so there is time for me to keep improving, even in the mile, but that will only happen if I keep working hard.”
One Response to “Kenyan high school athlete in New Jersey billed a rock star, breaking records all over”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.