Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Doris Lemngole’s ‘improbable’ journey

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama cross-country runner Doris Lemngole participating in a race at the Joe Piane Invitational on Sept. 29, 2023.

If you had told cross-country runner Doris Lemngole three years ago that she would be a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week destined for NCAA and Olympic glory, she would have started laughing.  

 The concept is just so improbable. She was an 18-year-old living in Kapenguria, Kenya, with no clue how her life would pan out. 

 But then she started running. And she realized she was good at it. Really good. 

“I started running in high school,” Lemngole said. “I liked running. And I was fast. Very fast. Then I went to camps. We trained at these camps during school breaks. And then I graduated in 2021 and I went to camp in Iten.” 

 Iten, Kenya, is one of the most significant places in the history of running. It’s where Colm O’Connell, “the godfather of Kenyan running,” settled down in 1976, leaving his home in Ireland to become one of the greatest trainers of all time. 

 He has coached 25 world champions and countless Olympians. And he has also ensured that Iten is the place that any Kenyan with any chance of becoming a big-time runner will be sent to train. 

 So that’s where Lemngole went. She ran there for over a year in preparation for her upcoming NCAA career. She started competing in the Diamond League, an elite series of track and field races and events. She even placed fifth in the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi back in February, earning herself $1250 in prize money (this is not an NCAA violation, as bylaws allow runners to earn money in Diamond League events). 

 But this year it was time to move on. She signed with the Crimson Tide on July 6 to the excitement of all of her future coaches and teammates. 

 “We knew she was something special coming in,” assistant coach Nick Stenuf said. 

Lemngole’s first race came in the Southern Showcase back in September. To say that she dominated would be an understatement. She finished first in the 5K with a time of 16:12.10, a full 30 seconds ahead of second place. In fact, the gap between second place and her teammate McKenzie Hogue, who finished 17th, was closer than the gap between first and second.  

 The performance earned Lemngole her first SEC Freshman of the Week award.  

And how did she follow that up? By going to South Bend, Indiana, and winning the women’s blue 5K at the Joe Piane Invitational, beating out North Carolina State senior Kelsey Chmiel by 10 seconds to secure her second career win in as many races.  

“To be honest, she’s still raw talent,” Stenuf said. “What she’s doing right now, she’s just scraping the surface of what she’s capable of. I don’t think she’s anywhere near her full potential.” 

 That is a scary thought for opposing runners everywhere. Rarely do freshmen come into a program and have the kind of immediate impact that Lemngole has had.  

“She takes every bit of coaching advice and adapts to it,” Stenuf said. “That’s what will help her get to that next level. And she will. You look at her talent-wise and work-ethic-wise, and it’s clear that she’ll not only be one of the best NCAA runners, but she’ll also make a mark on the world stage.” 

 And there is no event in sports that signifies “world stage” more than the Olympics. 

“That is my goal,” Lemngole said. “I want to run for Kenya.” 

Her coach once again backed her up. 

 “I know the Olympics are on her mind. And I think that 100% is a realistic goal for her to pursue, and we’re going to help her get there,” Stenuf said.  

 At the end of the day, the Olympics are very far away. And in the meantime, there is business to attend to in Tuscaloosa. 

“I want to win. I want to be a champion here,” Lemngole said when asked about her goals at Alabama. 

And her teammates are right behind her. 

“Her smile is super contagious,” junior Macy Schelp said. “She’s really had a positive impact on this team. We all love her and we love seeing her succeed.” 

 The sky is the limit for Lemngole.  

“Her work ethic and her character match her talent. She’s the kind of person that anybody would be blessed to meet and get to know,” Stenuf said. “I’m really excited to continue working with her and see what she’s capable of, not only as a runner but also as a person.”

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