NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships:
Kebenei beats mono, back on track
Arkansas junior Stanley Kebenei (120) leads the pack as he competes in the 5,000 meters during the third day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field West Preliminary Meet at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- After missing much of the indoor track and field season with mononucleosis, Arkansas junior Stanley Kebenei insisted on running the 10,000 meters at Stanford to open the outdoor season.
"Most guys don't step into the 10K if they don't feel like they're 100 percent, and he goes, 'Coach, I want to run a 10K the first outdoor meet I can. I need to feel the pain,' " Razorbacks Coach Chris Bucknam said. "It gives you an idea of kind of competitor he is.
"His ego doesn't get bruised. He doesn't live by a win or a loss. He knows it's a process, and he's not afraid to go in there and grind it out and get in shape."
Kebenei, a three-time All-American, finished 36th in the 10,000 at Stanford April 4, but he appears to be back in top shape heading into this week's NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore. He will run the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000.
"My body is ready," said Kebenei, who is from Nakura, Kenya. "So all I do is just prepare mentally."
Kebenei placed third in the steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor meet last year, then sixth in the NCAA Cross Country Championships last fall and expected to keep rolling during the indoor season.
But while running a 3,000 during a meet in late January, he couldn't go with runners he normally beats and finished sixth, several seconds shy of his personal best.
"I knew there was something wrong," he said.
Kebenei was diagnosed with mononucleosis and didn't run for six weeks, missing the SEC and NCAA indoor meets.
"It was really tough on me, especially when I don't get to compete for the school I love," said Kebenei, who transferred to Arkansas after being a national junior college champion at Central Iowa. "But I knew at the same time I had to get healthy."
Kebenei made gradual during the outdoor season, then showed his fitness by winning the steeplechase and 5,000 at the SEC Championships and advancing in both events at the NCAA West Preliminaries.
"The mono took me down, but I'm here to race again," he said. "That's life. You have to move on."
Kebenei said his goals at the NCAA Championships are to win the steeplechase and finish among the top three in the 5,000. He'll run the steeplechase semifinals Thursday and the 5,000 final Friday. The steeplechase final is Saturday.
"Now he's feeling good, he's got a bounce in his step," Bucknam said. "You can't count him out scoring big points in both the steeple and the 5K.
"He suffered through the early spring and had confidence in his ultimate ability and did a great job. I'm proud of him."
Kebenei said he's looking forward to running his best in Eugene.
"It's going to mean I'm ready to go out there and do something in the world," he said. "Every day is preparation."
Sports on 06/09/2014