Jonah Koech’s accomplishments as a member of the Iowa State track & field and cross country teams from 1989-93 made him one of the most decorated athletes in Iowa State athletic history. Koech’s prowess as a distance runner earned him five individual NCAA titles, All-America recognition nine times and nine individual Big Eight championships throughout his outstanding Cyclone career.
The Kilibwoni, Kenya, native began his impressive career placing second at the 1989 NCAA Cross Country Championship, helping the Cyclones win their first NCAA cross country team title. Koech earned All-America honors two more times in cross country, winning the NCAA individual title in 1990 and placing fifth in 1991, as the Cyclones finished runner-up NCAA team champs both seasons. He also won two Big Eight Cross Country individual titles (1990, 1991), helping the Cyclones win three Big Eight team championships (1989, 1990, 1991).
Koech was equally as impressive in track & field, where he won four NCAA individual titles and was a member of six Big Eight champion squads, winning seven individual conference titles (outdoor, 10,000m-3; outdoor, 5,000m-1; indoor, 5,000m-2; indoor, distance-1). Koech’s marquee event was the 5,000 meter race, where he won three NCAA indoor championships from 1990-93. At the 1991 NCAA indoor meet, Koech ran a time of 13:36.64 in the 5,000 meters, setting the NCAA meet record and an all-time Big Eight mark. His other NCAA individual crown was in 1993 when he was the fastest runner in the NCAA outdoor 10,000 meter competition, winning the race by more than 29 seconds with a time of 28:28.67. He also has the school and Big Eight all-time record in the outdoor 10,000 meters with a time of 28:08.50.
Koech was honored as the 1993 Male Athlete of the Year after his Cyclone career was finished. He immediately began a career on the international level. One week following his outstanding efforts at the 1993 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Koech established the third-fastest 5,000-meter performance ever by a collegian when he finished second to fellow countryman Paul Bitok in the Golden Gala Meet in Rome.