Saina Wears Kenya Uniform for the First Time
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State distance runner Betsy Saina has seen the African continent from coast to coast, just in the last month. Saina, who will be a senior this fall in track and field, placed sixth in the Kenyan Olympic Trials June 15 in Nairobi. Saina's performance there earned her a spot on the Kenyan team that represented her nation at the African Games in Porto Novo, Benin on June 30.
Saina's Olympic Trials experience was somewhat different from what her Cyclone teammates experienced at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Iowa State head track and field coach Corey Ihmels knows this first-hand. He traveled with Saina to Nairobi and saw it all.
"The Kenyan Olympic Trials are a minute to minute adventure," said Iowa State head track coach Corey Ihmels. "The time schedule changes frequently. The time of the start of the 10,000 meters was changed and moved up two hours the morning of the race. Officials, at the spur of the moment, can decide that races be put off until the next day. We had a situation with (Iowa State men's 800-meter champion) Edward Kemboi in the 800-meters where it appeared he had finished third but was listed as the fourth-place finisher. Just because you finish in the top three does not guarantee that you will be selected for the Olympic Games. There is just not the infrastructure there would be for the Olympic Trials in the United States. That being said, its distance fields are probably the best in the world."
Saina finished the 10k with a time of 32:48.36. The race was won by Vivian Cheruiyot in 32:24.52
"I am satisfied with sixth place," Saina said on her Facebook account. "I thank God for the protection. I didn't make London (Olympic) team but I made my journey to the African Championship in Benin which makes me happy."
Ihmels was pleased Saina's effort.
"It was all new to her," Ihmels said. "She was wide-eyed when we got there as were her teammates at their respective Olympic Trials. It was a great opportunity for her."
The African Championship 10,000-meter berth took Saina to Benin, a small country on the west coast of Africa. She took the Bronze medal, placing third in 32:48.36. It was a Kenyan 1-2-3 sweep, with Gladys Cherono (32:41.40) and Priscah Cherono (32:45.73) placing first and second, respectively."
"It has been a long journey with running and school this season," Saina said on Facebook. "I am grateful that I had a chance to represent Kenya for the first time."
Cyclone two-time All-American Edward Kemboi finished sixth in the Kenyan National Championship on June 15th with a time of 1:47.7.
At the Kenyan Olympic Trials on June 30, he clocked a 1:46.2 effort in the semifinals but did not advance to the final.
"It was a great experience for both Betsy and Edward," Ihmels said. "They are better runners for taking part in this opportunity."
Saina will be a senior in the 2012-2013 cross country and track seasons. Kemboi will be a sophomore in cross country and outdoor track and a freshman in indoor track.
VIDEO: Saina Takes Bronze Medal at African Games