The Rift Makes Ithaca Shift

The balance of power in the world of college cross country and track & field may soon take a head-spinning shift to Ithaca, N.Y. has learned that six scholar athletes from the Rift Valley in Kenya will be headed to Cornell University in the fall and all six have run sub-30 for 10 kilometers and five have already broken 14 minutes in the 5,000-meter run.

“I’m going to say it right now,” said a trusted source who has worked with athletes on the ground in Eldoret and beyond. “Cornell is my hands-down favorite to win the NCAA cross country championship next fall.”

The Big Red has garnered deep name recognition in the Rift Valley since Ithaca and Eldoret became sister cities in 2007. Former Cornell track coach Kevin Thompson was largely responsible for creating bonds throughout the region by establishing Cross World Africa, which focuses on sustainable change and advancement for the residents. Thompson has engaged members of the Big Red program to visit Kenya and work alongside Olympic legend Kip Keino in the creation of a school in Eldoret.

Cornell’s connection to the area, its top-notch track program and its agricultural sciences and engineering programs are a natural fit for these students. Farmers in western Kenya have become incentivized to focus on improving methods of land management. Many students are seeing business opportunities in sustainable innovation in the forms of electricity, water resourcing and land development.

“Ironically, none of these recruits is from Kip’s school,” said the source. “They are from Moi, Kapsabet and Molo. I’m not at liberty to identify them because I don’t want to blow up Cornell’s thing. These guys are very under the radar. They’ve not been in major competitions. In fact, many of them have made a name for themselves in football (soccer), but running is their true talent.

“It was a matter of time until you were going to see Cornell land some of these kids, but to land six potential superstars at once wasn’t expected. Folks in Eugene, Stillwater, Madison… you may be running for second.”

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